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Homeless encampment fire in Riverside destroys nearby house

Homeless encampment fire burns down woman's Riverside house
Homeless encampment fire burns down woman's Riverside house 03:12

A recently retired school bus driver lost her house after a fire from a homeless encampment spread to her property.

On Aug. 30, gusty winds helped the fire spread from between a pair of sound walls alongside the 60 Freeway to Christina Rangel's home. Security camera footage showed police evacuating her and her dogs as the nearby smoke intensified. 

"He says just leave them," said Rangel. "And I says no! I grabbed my dogs." 

After firefighters doused the flames, Rangel returned to see the charred remains of the place she called home for the last 15 years. 

"I lost it. I couldn't. I couldn't," Rangel said as she cried. 

She still struggles to accept her loss, especially after her recent retirement. She said that all she wanted to do was relax. 

"Right after my retirement, I thought I was going to have my house, relax," she said. "And then it's like somebody just pulled the rug from under my feet."

The Riverside Fire Department said cooking equipment started the fire at the homeless encampment. It also caused a nearby elementary school to be evacuated. Firefighters said that river-bottom fires, like the one that burned down Rangel's home, decreased by 20% after the city banned encampments in high-risk areas last year. 

Caltrans said the fire started on state-owned land. While they do maintain the area, they said encampments can quickly more from one place to another. 

Despite now being homeless, Rangel said she has compassion for the people living in the encampment. However, she called on the state to do more to help them. 

"I can see them and I can see myself too — both sides," said Rangel. "But, somebody should do something. Don't let them do this."

Rangel added that her neighbors have helped her since she lost her home. 

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