People who live near Ballona Creek in Culver City say they’re becoming increasingly concerned about fires at homeless encampments in the area.
Residents say that a fire, fueled by exploding propane tanks Sunday night near Ballona Creek is the fourth fire in recent months at a homeless encampment near Jefferson Boulevard and Overland Avenue.
“I lost everything – my whole life,” said Frances, 61, who is homeless.
Frances, who suffers from lung problems, barely escaped the fire, which broke out near her tent around 10 pm She admits she uses propane tanks for heating and cooking, but she swears they were turned off when the fire broke out. The official cause is under investigation.
“It’s so dangerous,” she said. “I always tell people, ‘Make sure that thing is shut off because it will wipe out a whole neighborhood.'”
The Culver City Fire Department says the number of homeless encampment fires have gone up from 12 to 25 in the past year.
People who have homes and businesses in the area say they’re afraid.
Neighbors say the encampments attract drug use, loud parties, and fighting.
NBC4 reached out to the Culver City Police Department about the issue, but did not hear back.
Culver City Fire Capt. Seth Miller, who’s on a homeless outreach team, brought Frances sleeping bags after the replacement tent he gave her Monday was stolen.
He says he hands out safety flyers and fire extinguishers to those living near the creek to try and prevent fires, but the problem continues.
“Our goal is to keep people safe in the city,” Miller said. “Whether they’re living on the street or in homes.”
Frances says she understands the frustration of homeowners – but she can’t afford rent and has been on a waiting list for subsidized housing for three years.
“People think, ‘Oh, it’s just a couple more weeks … It’s coming. A couple more weeks out here changes who you are as a human being.”