By Scanner Andrew
Firefighters are on scene of a vegetation fire near Hwy 246 & Sweeney Road in Lompoc.
Are there nearby encampments?
If you build it… they will come….
There are a number of encampments on both sides of the 246 bridge near Sweeney Road.
The Freetown Riverbed Community now extends from Sweeney Crossing all the way through Lompoc down to the Airport - 4 miles maybe? of open camping. They don't even try to hide any more - just stop at the Lemo's and look to your right behind the store - at least 50 people within 50 feet of the parking lot. Another couple of hundred more in the willows not much further away.
A short dash across the river bridge sits a homeless/rehab/whatever dormitory style center on private land that attracts roamers looking to poach the freebies and they too hang out around that area.
A newly approved cannabis farm is up and running along that stretch and it, like most of the roadside farms, attracts free-rangers looking to score either a job or some "samples".
I moved here about 20 years ago when we had one "homeless" guy named Sarge - he was low-key, just him and his German Shepherd. Hung out at the Albertsons a lot. Nice guy actually, just carried some baggage from PTSD and preferred his lifestyle. People helped him and his dog and that was okay.
Now, we have upwards of 300 to 400 free spirits seemingly intent on stealing every bicycle in town, jumping people's fences to strip any home garden or fruit tree they can reach, ripping off Home Depot almost daily, aggressively panhandling at every store with a sidewalk and generally being pains in the community rear.
I don't have an answer.
When help is offered and refused - end of story.
A few years back, Lompoc spent over $500k to "clear" the riverbed of encampments. The city set up temporary shelters at a local park with Social Services, medical and dental care, rehab services, job training, etc. - the whole suite of offerings. Of the 500 people cleared from the river, less than 50 bothered to avail themselves of these "get-back-on-your-feet" services. The rest hid out, some atop the Mervyn's shopping center, and waited the city out before moving back into the riverbed.
Another bum fire.
Forward progress stopped. Copter and crew cancelled.
I think this is the 4th fire now in Lompoc in the last 24 hours