Cleanup Crews Move Through Site of Sepulveda Basin Homeless Encampment Fire

Photo Courtesy of the Office of Nury Martinez

ENCINO (CNS) - One week after a seven-acre brush fire raced through the area displacing dozens of homeless people from makeshift dwellings, city crews swept through the charred Sepulveda Basin encampment Monday  for a cleanup effort, and called a  bomb squad when a grenade was found.

The cleanup had been planned before last Tuesday's fire (July 30), which chewed through vegetation in the area and destroyed multiple tents and other belongings of the homeless who were living amid the brush.

According to City Councilwoman Nury Martinez's office, the cleanup is expected to continue throughout this week.

When the grenade was discovered in the charred area, a Los Angeles Police Department bomb squad was summoned, and the device was safely detonated, according to Martinez's office.

"We have a major public health and safety issue in that vast location, and we are potentially the next fire away from a catastrophic event for people living in the encampments, visitors who want to utilize the park space and residents in the surrounding communities,'' Martinez said.

The encampments are, in part, located on city-leased park property, where overnight camping is illegal. The Army Corps of Engineers is the authority of the basin land and the California Fish and Wildlife oversees the river.

Martinez said Monday's cleanup was planned well before the fire, but she said it brought to light, once again, issues that need to be addressed regarding people experiencing homelessness.

Officials from the city Department of Recreation and Parks, Los Angeles Sanitation, LAPD and Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority were among those taking part in the cleanup.

Fire officials estimated last week that about 100 homeless people had been displaced by the fire, but officials told City News Service that as many as 200 may have been residing in the basin. Firefighting efforts were hampered due to propane tanks in the field that exploded as the flames reached them.

The basin park is only open during daylight hours, from sunrise to sunset, a policy Martinez said needs to be enforced.

"Thank God no one was injured or lost their life in last week's fire,'' she said,  "but it's clear the city has a duty to keep its park space safe and accessible. Today's discovery of a grenade at the site is further proof that this is a major public safety issue that must be dealt with.''

For the last month, city officials said they made outreach efforts to the homeless population in the basin. Officials notified residents of the encampments that the area would be cleaned and LAHSA offered them placement services.

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