BEL-AIR (CBSLA) — A Bel-Air synagogue has filed a lawsuit against the city and county of Los Angeles following the devastating Skirball fire last year.
The lawsuit says the city and county failed to clear the area of a homeless encampment, believed to be the cause of the December 2017 blaze.
The Leo Baeck Temple said it sustained fire damage from the blaze, believed to have started as a cooking fire at a nearby homeless camp.
The fire destroyed six homes and damaged a dozen others.
The lawsuit maintains the city had received multiple complaints about the encampment, which was situated among dry brush and flammable vegetation, but failed to inspect or warn the public about any possible danger.
The city and county “knew or should have known that this presented a fire hazard, as the area is prone to wildfires because of the trees, bushes and other vegetation and foliage,” the lawsuit states, as cited by the LA Times.
But the temple’s lawyer told KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo via FaceTime, that the lawsuit was about more than money.
“The lawsuit does seek compensation for the property damage that was suffered,” says attorney Joshua Haffner, “and it hopes to shine a light on the issue, the predicament of the homeless, to get the resources that they need.”
The homeless encampment was also largely destroyed in the fire.
“It is a danger and a danger to the surrounding community,” Haffner said, “to the homes and to the synagogue, that suffered damage, it was dangerous to the people in the encampment.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said he was unable to comment about the lawsuit.
But he did talk about the need to clear out other encampments in fire prone areas for the public’s safety.
While the lawsuit doesn’t have a specific amount, Fajardo says the temple is seeking more than $25,000 in damages.