The latest public data from the Los Angeles Fire Department shows the number of fires that have burned so far this year has outpaced any other year in recent memory, with a staggering number of fires tied to the city’s homeless population and an ever-increasing portion blamed on arson.
As of Sept. 30, 2020 firefighters logged 8,283 fires of all types within city limits, a 45% increase over the 5,695 recorded during the same nine month period in 2019, according to data obtained by NBC4’s I-Team that was drawn from the National Fire Incident Reporting System.
Within that total the Fire Department said more than half of 2020’s fires had been flagged as related to homelessness, an increase in size and portion from the count last year. The indication of a link to homelessness in the records is not detailed or specific, and could refer to trash fires near an encampment, an encampment fire, or a fire ignited by the activities of those living on the streets, such as a cooking or warming fire.
The data showed 4,240, or 51.18% of fires were flagged as connected to homelessness, compared with 2,331, or 40.93% of fires in 2019.
Additionally the response records revealed a growing number of fires that were considered deliberately set, including arson fires. Some 2,293 fires in 2020 were categorized this way, or 28% of the total.
That represents a 77% increase in deliberately set fires over 2019, when records listed 1,292 such fires.
The arson records also indicated an increase in deliberately set fires within the incidents flagged as related to homelessness. There were 1,510 such fires in 2020, a 90% increase over the 791 recorded in 2019.
The LA City Fire Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment on why the number of fires have increased. The LA Mayor’s Office also did not respond to a request Friday.