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Up in flames: Rising number of homeless fires threatens LA neighborhoods

An NBC4 I-Team investigation finds some fires are apparently started when the homeless tap into city electrical wires to bring power to their tents.

What to Know

  • There were 13,909 homeless fires in Los Angeles in 2023, almost double the number of such fires in 2020, according to LAFD data.

  • Some of these fires are apparently caused by homeless people tapping into city electrical wires under the sidewalk, the I-Team found.

  • City officials confirmed that the wires can cause explosions if they're tampered with.

Just before 10 one recent morning, an LA neighborhood was rocked by loud explosions that residents say sounded like bombs going off.

"There were two huge explosions, and when I looked out my apartment window I saw plumes of black smoke," said Jeanne Rice, who lives around the corner from a homeless encampment at Wilton Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard.

Those plumes of smoke and fire were coming from a homeless tent that had exploded into a ball of fire, destroying the tent and other tents around it.

The I-Team found this was just one of several encampment fires recently in this neighborhood dotted by new apartment and condo buildings.


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