MPC Brush Fire - 2

The brush fire started across the street from Malibu Presbyterian Church and progressed toward HRL Laboratories before knockdown.

In wake of an early morning brush fire near Hughes Research Laboratories—later confirmed by the Los Angeles County Fire Department as caused by a cooking fire at a homeless encampment—City of Malibu officials and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department have taken steps to help the public evict unwanted trespassers from local properties.

Initially addressed at the Monday, Oct. 22, Malibu City Council meeting, what’s known as a “Letter of Agency” is a way in which the sheriff’s department can be empowered to remove unwanted “guests” from private property.

“If a person is camping or sleeping on private property, that private property has to have provided written authorization to the sheriff’s department for the sheriff’s department to go on to that private property and ask that person to leave,” City Manager Reva Feldman explained at the meeting.

In late October, the city of Malibu posted on its website a Letter of Agency. The document is provided by the sheriff’s department and may be filled out and signed by property owners or property managers. It identifies houses, buildings, apartments or vacant lots and authorizes deputies from the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station to remove trespassers from the property and even arrest them. The letter, which requires a signature from the owner or manager of a property, can be mailed, emailed or delivered in person to the local sheriff’s station. Once submitted, it must be renewed yearly in order for authorities to remove unwanted persons from a private area.

The city website says: “Filing a Letter of Agency is especially important for properties that are vacant or are not used regularly. It is also important for property owners to post signs that read ‘Private Property, No Trespassing’ to help deputies enforce trespassing laws.”

With wildfires a looming threat to public safety in the Malibu community, the City of Malibu and the sheriff’s department want to discourage and remove any illegal encampments. A fire in January of this year near the Malibu Civic Center was thought to be started by someone seeking warmth and another major wildfire in Bel Air was said to be started at an illegal campsite—both are recent examples of the threat to homes, lives, infrastructure and public safety.

Disaster was averted with the fire near HRL Oct. 19. It started in the middle of the night and panicked nearby neighbors before being extinguished at 1:30 a.m. with the help of water dropping helicopters. LA County Fire Department officials have confirmed that a trespasser on the private property did start the blaze while cooking a meal. Three acres quickly burned under the dangerously dry conditions that evening and city officials were quick to mention the efficient work of firefighters on the scene, but also stated on the website that the incident “underscores the very real wildfire threat that homeless encampments present.” Luckily in this blaze, no structures were damaged and no one was reported injured.

In addressing the homelessness crisis that is plaguing Malibu, Los Angeles County and the nation in general, the city said it is working with sheriff’s deputies and local nonprofit organizations to address homelessness. The People Concern is one such organization that is working in Malibu to help place people living on the streets into permanent housing. With funds from the City of Malibu, two full-time outreach workers from The People Concern have been offering what an Oct. 24 letter from the city called “comprehensive services to Malibu’s homeless population with the ultimate goal of getting people off the street and into permanent housing and needed services.” In 2018, with the crisis worsening, the city also adopted a homeless strategic plan in coordination with regional efforts across LA County to advance these efforts.

A copy of the Letter of Agency can be downloaded at malibucity.org/LetterofAgency.

A fact sheet with information about homeless encampments is also posted on the city website at malibucity.org/EncampmentInfo.

For more information, contact Public Safety Manager Susan Dueñas at sduenas@malibucity.org or call 310.456.2489 ext. 313.

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