In order to heighten awareness and improve response to quell hazards posed by sidewalk encampment fires in the district, Executive Director Estela Lopez invited representatives of the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) to walk the district to see the situation first-hand and meet the affected business owners.
On February 28, LA Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas along with LAFD Deputy Chief Kristin Crowley and Deputy Chief Phillip Fligiel, as well as Christopher Anyakwo from Mayor Garcetti’s office met at the BID office with business owners and BID staff. Estela noted “the encampments have become normalized and no one envisioned what they would become. The BID tracked 60 fires for last year and 36 already through the first two months of 2018.” She asked, “How do we protect our community and businesses”?
In responding, Chief Terrazas mentioned that LAFD is very aware of the situation and that stopping encampment fires here in the district is a top LAFD priority. LAFD has taken several steps to better protect all concerned. LAFD has expanded its Fast Response Vehicle to six days per week, with the goal of reaching the scene within five minutes of a call. LAFD is now collecting more data as to causes, locations and types of fires. A new survey is being administered to all LAFD personnel and results are discussed at weekly meetings to be better informed and to help more effectively deploy resources.
Within a one block radius of the BID offices at least three structures housing operating businesses had sustained fire and smoke damage, along with many others throughout the district.
The group set off on a walking tour of these nearby buildings sustaining damage, starting at 700 E. Seventh Street, a seafood processing company, where a tent fire had burnt up and over the exterior wall.
Closer inspection revealed the tent tethered to a point on the wall.
Inside the building office, fire damage was visible on an interior wall and the smell of smoke smell still permeated the air weeks later.
The second location, a block south at Crocker and Agatha sustained damage to a large portion of the exterior wall along Agatha. As seen in the photo, a bunker of tents are sitting against the building on Crocker from Agatha south to 8th Street posing a fire risk to the building at any time.
The last stop on the tour was 749 Towne, a block east. The location houses an event production company that sustained fire damage all the way up its front-facing exterior wall and caused damage to its very high ceiling inside. Luckily the supply of musical and other electrical equipment stored on that wall was not damaged but this could have been a very dangerous and costly fire had it spread.
In parting, Chief Terrazas asked for the help of the BID and business owners to better secure buildings. In response the group asked LAFD to step up response and suppression and to help the BID work with LAPD for better enforcement.
Everyone thanked Chief Terrazas and his deputies for coming and hearing about at the situation, and the Chief thanked all attending for giving them a first-hand look.