PALMDALE — A fire that started in a homeless encampment behind a business on Sixth Street East south of Palmdale Boulevard caused more than $50,000 damage, according to business owner Adam Sauceda.
The fire started about 7:10 a.m. Thursday behind Sauceda’s business, High Desert Collectors.
A light trail of white smoke behind one of the buildings on Sauceda’s property can be seen in video security footage. The view of the fire is partially obscured by an outbuilding, but two or three people can be seen trying to move tarps or tents near the smoke, possibly in an effort to extinguish the blaze, or to save their belongings. The cloud of white smoke grows thicker as the flames can be seen. The smoke eventually turns black as the plastic from the homeless camp starts to burn. The people in the video eventually gave up and walked away as the fire grew bigger.
The video also shows the Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters from stations 31 and 137 who responded and extinguished the blaze.
“It’s a little difficult to watch,” Sauceda said.
The fire burned two outbuildings behind the main brick building including one that was used for merchandise storage. Sauceda sells a variety of collectibles in his shop including clothes, signs, bicycles, jewelry, outdoor decorations and antiques.
Multiple tents and homeless encampments line the chain-link fence behind the businesses on Sixth Street East between Avenue R and Palmdale Boulevard.
One of the men seen in the fire video has lived behind Sauceda’s business for some time. Sauceda said he cautioned the man about not starting fires.
The fire blackened a tree at the rear of Sauceda’s property and damaged two outbuildings he will need to replace. He will also need to replace the fence.
Sauceda estimated about 50 people live behind the businesses. A large tree to the south of Sauceda’s property has a three-level tree house in it constructed from wood pallets and tarps.
Sauceda, a Palmdale resident, said he wanted to open his shop in Palmdale to keep sales tax revenue here.
“I grew up in Palmdale; why wouldn’t I try to establish my business here in Palmdale?” he said.
Sauceda opened his business about two years ago.
Sauceda has had a few break-ins and lost some property to the homeless people who live behind the businesses.
He pointed to a black box at one encampment that he said belonged to him. A ditch behind the businesses next to the train tracks is littered with trash, including clothes and shopping baskets left by the people who live in the encampments.
Sauceda said he and his business neighbors have gone to the city for help to no avail.
“They’ve been saying, ‘You guys gotta do something,’ ” Sauceda said.
Metrolink controls the right-of-way for the property west of the railroad tracks, a city official said.
Mike Miller, Palmdale’s director of Neighborhood Services, said the city’s enforcement team is working with Metrolink on abatement at the site.
“We’re going to work to get that cleaned up with the code team,” Miller said.
The city works with the private property owner, whether it is a government agency or an individual, to clean up the property. The city also works with service providers to help the homeless people camped out there.
An emergency winter shelter is nearby at Antelope Valley YouthBuild, at 38626 Ninth St. East, but Miler said it has been struggling to get people in there.
“There are resources out there if people want them; they just have to want them,” Miller said.
As for the tree house, Miller said if it is on a private piece of property the city’s Code Enforcement will work with the property owner.
“We have great code enforcement staff who really work with these people … We try to be sensitive with everybody — the property owner, the person who’s in need,” he said.
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