Firefighters battle flames.
Crews battle flames after a fire Wednesday afternoon in the Sannta Ynez riverbed near Lompoc. (Lompoc Fire Department photo)

For the second day in a row, Lompoc Valley firefighters have battled a blaze involving homeless encampments in the Santa Ynez riverbed.

Shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday, crews from the Lompoc, Santa Barbara County and Vandenberg Air Force Base fire departments responded to the riverbed where a blaze sent a large column of black smoke into the sky, Lompoc Battalion Chief Brian Federmann said.

The fire in the riverbed near East North Avenue and Riverside Drive was kept to 100 feet by 50 feet and did not spread beyond the encampment to the brush in the dry riverbed, he added.

Firefighters remained at the scene performing overhaul duties ensuring final hot spots were exinguished.

“The overhaul on this one is pretty extensive,” Federmann said.

Crews used a backhoe to move debris during the overhaul work.

There were no injuries reported, and the cause of the fire is under investigation.

Another fire, reported at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday, burned near the Robinson Bridge on Highway 246 at the eastern edge of the city.

“As units arrived on scene a large column of black smoke was coming from the river bed, at a known location of a large homeless encampment,” Federmann said. “There were several propane gas tanks involved in the fire that initially slowed fire personnel down.”

charred items in the riverbed

Firefighters deal with charred items after a blaze Wednesday at a homeless camp in the Santa Ynez riverbed near Lompoc. (Lompoc Fire Department photo)

After approximately 20 minutes crews contained the encampment fire to 60 feet by 40 feet, and minimized the spread to the brush. 

Propane tanks at the scene of fire were responsible for shooting fireballs into the sky and delaying firefighters due to safety concerns, he said. 

Once fire crews contained the fire, personnel stayed at the scene for more than two areas cleaning up the area.  

There were no injuries reported, and the cause of the fire is undetermined, Federmann said.

There have been three fires in the same area over the past week, with those blazes sparking as Lompoc police begin issuing eviction notices to homeless residents.

Chief Pat Walsh previously estimated some 60 to 75 encampments are located in the riverbed. 

The fires Wednesday and Thursday were deemed suspicious, but Federmann said he could not speculate on whether the incidents were related to the city’s efforts to evict residents from the riverbed.

City officials have said the number of fires involving the homeless encampments in the riverbed have increased in recent years. 

Thursday’s incident marked at least the 15th blaze in the riverbed during 2018, Federmann said. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

smoke rising from a fire

A column of smoke rises from a fire Thursday morning in the Santa Ynez riverbed.  (Lompoc Fire Department photo)

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Janene Scully | Noozhawk North County Editor

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at