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Fire and Smoke

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Thanks to the crew at Blogging LA, yesterday's fire in Nichols Canyon was well covered. The LA Times made up for their late report about the emergency with some choice quotes from canyon residents who all seemed to be in their late twenties to thirties (remarkably young to live in such a relatively pricey area like Mt Olympus) who blame the conflagration on the homeless encamped in the brush.
Residents said they were stunned by the speed of the fire and hurriedly telephoned friends to warn them. "We saw flames shooting out. [Then] we saw all these wonderful helicopters; they were really low," said Gabrielle Einstein, 29, who lives on Genesee Avenue. "This is pretty much as L.A. as you can get: A forest fire in your neighborhood." Some residents grabbed their dogs and other valuables and fled their homes. "It went up so fast," said Ric Waugh, 37. The Nichols Canyon resident said he had arrived home from work to find a 20-foot wall of flames about 50 yards from his home... The homeless encampment that authorities suspect was the source of the fire has been an irritant for many residents, according to Waugh and others. They said they have often called the Los Angeles Police Department to complain. "This is the problem," said Nichols Canyon resident Jessica Postigo, 35. "The homeless are up into the canyon and they either smoke or light fires, and this happens, and it's scary."

Postigo said a fire started at the homeless encampment last fall, but was quickly contained.

Funny, what with all the LA
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media outlets (it's even merited comment on some, but not enough, LA blogs) focused on commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Watts Riots, nobody's made the connection between the fires in the hills and the potential fires of rage in action waiting to break out in LA once again.It's been a brutal summer in LA with respect to racial and class tension this year. Too many black young men (many unaffiliated with gangs) have been gunned down in SoCal neighborhoods since the spring as Latino gangs bring racist impluses, learned in prison, back to the streets of LA. We'd also like to know how many black gang members have been shooting Latino youth, a story that's gone unreported so far. Why?We already avoid driving through Highland Park and must now rethink our commuter route down 6th Street to Rampart. This Afro-LAist thought the dangerous days of driving while black were behind her...guess not.Some also believe the recent spate of freeway shootings may also be racially motivated. Who knows what's going to happen when school resume at Jefferson High and other schools shut down due to Latino vs black fights last spring. We don't think LA's black underclass is going to accept its inevitable cultural marginalization without a fight.We know the newly formed Latino & African American Leadership Alliance has the best intentions but we're not holding our breath that Al Sharpton's presence will improve things here after he gets himself on TV at tomorrow's cross-town Unity march from the site of the Watts riots to the spot where Susie Pena was shot just weeks ago in order to spur dialogue between the 2 groups (If you plan to attend, the event starts at 6 PM at 116th & Avalon Blvd. and ends at 104th & Avalon).
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And what about shining some light on the other ethnic groups in this town trying to bridge cultural gaps like Korean American hip hopper Shin B profiled by Daniel Hernandez in today's LA Times.

Something's coming, we just don't know what or when.

Class tensions are growing as high housing prices displace folks around town. Everyone's moving--the yuppies are buying out the boho areas, forcing bohos renters to move into the already crowded and disappearing low income areas and the low income from those places are pushed into the SROs or onth the streets.

No wonder new homeless encampments are springing up everywhere. Folks forced out of downtown and mid-Wilshire have to find someplace to sleep in this town. We've seen several new encampments revive themselves around the 101 embankment off Virgil, despite at least 2 attempts by police to roust them out.

But maybe we're just tripping. Maybe, looking back, the acts of celebrity meltdown, paparazzi clashes, the Marilyn Monroe tape transcripts and Tropicana Bar brawls actually were the most important LA news stories of the summer '05 .