Watch CBS News

LA Councilman: Officials 'Not Aware' Of Homeless Encampment Linked To Skirball Fire

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — As the last of a series of raging wildfires continues to devastate parts of Southern California, the Los Angeles City Council is expected to consider an effort to battle what officials say is a wildfire "epidemic".

Councilmember Paul Koretz, whose Fifth Council District was hit hard by the Skirball Fire, was set to introduce a motion Wednesday that would establish a "Climate Emergency Mobilization Department to oversee emergency reductions in greenhouse gas emissions citywide", along with a request to declare a "climate emergency" that would free up state funds for the mobilization effort.

According to Koretz, the effort will place a priority on helping "low income communities of color who suffer most from climate change and from fossil fuel operations".

"Severe climate disruption is not happening to our children and our grandchildren, it is happening to us now, right here in Southern California, in real time," said Koretz. "This is a climate emergency and we need to set aside our differences and rise to the challenge as humanity has done throughout history. But now the entire planet is counting on us. Our finest hour is just ahead."

Koretz later announced a scheduled news conference - where he was expected to be joined by members of the Mobilize LA coalition and other environmental activist groups - was canceled. He did not provide a reason for the cancellation.

The climate effort comes as firefighters near full containment on the Skirball Fire, which destroyed six homes and damaged 12 others, and at one time prompted the evacuation of about 700 homes and an apartment building in the Bel-Air area.

Officials determined Monday the fire was caused by "an illegal cooking fire" at a homeless encampment in a brush area next to where Sepulveda Boulevard crosses under the San Diego (405) Freeway.

Koretz says officials did not know about a homeless encampment in the area.

"We were not aware that there was this encampment there. If we were, we would have been encouraging them to move," he said. "But what makes this even more tragic is the tragedy of homelessness, and the fact that we've got tens of thousands of people living on the streets and it means things like this will happen until we get more of a handle on the problem."

No one was at the scene of the fire's origin when firefighters arrived, and no arrests have been made, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

(© Copyright 2017 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. City News Service contributed to this report.)

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.