A massive fire that engulfed one home in Venice and severely damaged several others is still under investigation, and in the wake of the incident residents are asking investigators not to overlook one major factor.
"I realized this wasn't an inconvenient fire, this was a disaster in the making," said
, adjacent to the Venice Canals, where it completely destroyed one three-story home and significantly damaged four others, one of which was under construction.
More than 100 firefighters were called to the scene to battle the flames, doing so in just under an hour a half. No injuries were reported, but neighbors are at wit's end with what they believe to be the root of the problem -- the large homeless population in the area.
"We call this the Venice shopping mall because the homeless go up and down here, they're looking through the trash, looking through open gates, open garages," said Sean O'Brien, who lives in the area.
Glenn Searle, who also lives near the scene of the fire, echoed that sentiment.
"The activity is all night long - people going through our garbage, people living here, people do drugs here," he said, noting that the house in question is apparently a popular location for the unhoused community to gather. "I'm not sure what part the homeless had in here, but I can say that all day before there were homeless living in here and using the toilet all day."
Both men played significant roles in helping their neighbors the night of the fire, calling 911 and screaming throughout the neighborhood that a huge fire had erupted.
While they both wanted to make it clear that they had no issue with the homeless in general, O'Brien said the big issue is a lack of action from city officials.
"if we had a voice that was listened to, we'd be more compassionate," he said. "Now, the whole area is so frustrated with it that we're losing more compassion for the homeless because of it."
CBS has not yet heard back from the office of City Councilmember Mike Bonin, whose District 11 oversees the area.
Arson investigators still have yet to determine a cause in the fire, and have not yet made any connections to the homeless population.
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