Spring Valley homeless encampment fire raises concerns amidst He - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Spring Valley homeless encampment fire raises concerns amidst Hep A outbreak

Posted: Updated:

Fire video courtesy of Malcolm Gettmann

SAN DIEGO (NEWS 8) — A vegetation and trash fire in Spring Valley threatened nearby condos and resulted in at least one injury Sunday.  

The one-acre brush fire started in the early morning hours of Sunday in what, firefighters say, was a homeless encampment where someone was trying to stay warm.  

San Miguel Fire District, San Diego Fire and Bonita Fire crews responded to the scene near Spring Canyon Drive. 

"One of the main problems was access into the area," said San Miguel Battalion Chief Andy Lawler. "We have a few roads adjacent to the area and above it. We got crews in above and below it and attacked it from there."  

While the terrain was tough, firefighters faced a larger hazard to their health. 

As the sun came up, they could see large piles of debris and buckets scattered throughout the area that had been used as makeshift bathrooms. 

One firefighter injured his back after stepping in one of the buckets, then falling down a hill. He was transported to Mercy Hospital.  

As the City of San Diego is combating a Hepatitis A outbreak, which has killed 16 people, fire crews coming into contact with human waste also raised concerns. 

Crews consulted with Hazmat because of the unsanitary conditions. 

"They gave us a clean-up plan, because we did have crews contaminated by the feces in the stream," said Lawler.  "All of our hoses and nozzles were contaminated, [along with] personal protective equipment. Hazmat suggested a wash down so we did a [decontamination] on scene." 

Residents say the fire highlights a significant problem in the canyon and estimate he site of the fire is just one of four encampments – each with up to 20 people in them.  

"This has become a housing development for them, but it needs to be cleaned out  - and what happens to them after the clean-up?" said Malcolm Gettmann who is on the HOA for Spring Canyon Condominiums which owns the canyon.   

Cleaning up the area is ultimately is their responsibility, but the area is also environmentally sensitive - and they say contractors won't even bid on the job. 

"We've been told 'no heavy equipment' - that means it's done by hand and there's three tons of trash in one encampment," said Gettmann. "We're told 'no' at every turn. We're at a loss as to what we can do."  


Powered by Frankly
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2019 KFMB-TV. All Rights Reserved.
For more information on this site, please read our Privacy Policy, and Terms of Service, and Ad Choices.