2 men arrested after allegedly setting fire to a homeless encampment

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Fire in the wilderness. Credit: Pixabay.

Los Angeles police have arrested two men on suspicion of attempted murder. They’re accused of intentionally setting fire to a homeless encampment in Eagle Rock about a week and a half ago. No buildings were damaged or destroyed, and one firefighter sustained minor injuries. But the fire spread and some people fled their homes.

Teresa Hendrickson, editor of the Boulevard Sentinel, says that after the fire broke out, the affected homeless encampment in Eagle Rock looked bigger than before. "Normally it would be grouped together under the underpass. This time it was stretching from one end to the other. Whether that was a reaction to having been attacked, or having been allegedly targeted and they’re huddling together more, or whether it’s really just growing and I just happened to notice it in light of all of these events, I can’t say. But the encampments in Eagle Rock do look like they’re there to stay, and they may wax and wane. But they certainly, at this point, seem to be permanent fixtures.” 

Meanwhile, on Wednesday night, the LA City Council voted to allow police to clear homeless encampments in fire-prone areas. 

LA Times crime reporter James Queally describes how the clearing would work: “That’s going to be at the discretion of the officer on scene, but it is effectively the same as any kind of verbal order a police officer would give that is lawful that has to be complied with. A dispersal order is probably what I would think of. When you’re clearing out a street protest, you get X number of minutes. They’re not going to just throw people’s stuff away, but it’s designed to be a pretty immediate response.”

Queally says both city officials and the LAPD have been more concerned about fire incidents affecting people living on the streets. "There have been a rash of fires in the downtown area, mostly related to tents, mostly related to homeless encampments. And it’s become a dispute-settling means, or a fight over whose belongings should go where. Sometimes fire is being used to chase people away.”