Thick, black plumes of smoke could be seen drifting out of the Lompoc riverbed Thursday morning. This comes as fire crews were battling another fire there on Wednesday night.
“Last night, Lompoc crews with assistance from Santa Barbara County and Vandenberg Air Force Base responded to an encampment fire just north of the Robinson bridge a little after 6 p.m. We didn’t clear the scene from there until a little after 9 o’clock; it was really an extensive overhaul operation to clear the area to make sure the fire didn’t spread later on. Then a little after 10 this morning, we were called out to another fire in the riverbed,” explained Lompoc Fire Department Battalion Chief Brian Federmann.
In addition to draining resources from across the city and parts of the county, crews heading out to the riverbed have to worry about safety and unknown hazards.
“There was a large black column of smoke coming up, there was some propane cylinders that were going off prior to the crews arrival so it was kinda a heads-up to our crews as they enter to be really cautious going down there prior to a firefight,” Federmann said.
The Lompoc Police Department is also having an active presence in the riverbed as they begin handing out their eviction notices to people living there.
“In the last week and a half we’ve served notices to approximately 66 campsites we’ve located in the riverbed area,” said Sgt. Kevin Martin.
The police say it’s too soon to tell if these new fires are happening in retaliation to the evictions.
“It would be irresponsible for us to assume that this is because of that. Obviously the fire department has a job to do – part of that job is not only putting the fire out but also determining the cause of the fire and if it was arson or not,” Sgt. Martin said.
For those who live close to Thursday’s riverbed fire, they’re ecstatic to see the city taking action against this ongoing problem.
“I think it’s a good idea. I don’t particularly want them to not have a place to live but there are services for them and I don’t think the riverbed is the ideal place for them to be,” neighbor Joe Moreno said.