Are the fires in the Santa Ynez Riverbed in Lompoc retaliation for handing out eviction notices to homeless living in the area?
Not likely, according to Lompoc Police.
"The fires are still unknown as far as the source and reason for the fires, but none of the fires that have been any of the encampments where subjects have been given notices," said Sgt. Vincent Magallon.
Of the 66 notices issued since Wednesday, Sgt. Kevin Martin said there have been no confrontations between officers and the homeless at the encampments.
This year, 15 fires have sparked in the riverbed between North Street Bridge and the Robinson Bridge. Though none have been deemed arson yet, several — including Thursday’s fire — appear suspicious.
"It’s always a challenge to find witnesses and when a large area is consumed by a fire," said Battalion Chief Brian Federmann, Lompoc Fire Department. "It’s hard to find any materials or the cause of it."
The majority of fires sparked by warming or cooking, Federmann said.
The 15 fires and a number of medical calls in the riverbed that the fire department responds to has put a strain on resources in the area.
"We’ve had four to five fire apparatus and over 20 personnel committed on these incidents," Federmann said. "So it depletes the resource available in our own city and our own county so we have to tactically be ready to pull resources out and recall personnel if needed to make sure we’re able to respond to other emergencies within the city."
Homeless living in the riverbed have until Sept. 10 to leave. Those who don’t will be fined for trespassing.