Conflict over area near Plaza Bonita Mall leads to lack of clean up

3 fires broke out in riverbed in past few months

NATIONAL CITY, Calif. - Questions surround recent fires near the Plaza Bonita Mall in National City, and some are wondering why more is not being done to clean up that area.

A fire near a homeless encampment Wednesday killed one person. Police closed off the area around Plaza Bonita Mall most of Thursday afternoon as they continued with the fire investigation.

The cause of the fire has not yet been released.

10News has covered at least three separate brush fires in the same area around the riverbed in recent months -- one in December, another in February and the latest on Wednesday.

The area is known for the homeless who live among the brush and trees.

"They're all down here, they come out of the bushes on their bikes, walking around," said Jane Mullen, who works at Plaza Bonita. "I don't know why the police don't take them out of this area if it's so dangerous."

Fire and police officials on scene Thursday afternoon did not want to talk on camera. Team 10 asked National City Mayor Ron Morrison why more was not being done to keep the area clean to prevent future problems.

"We step up enforcement, of course, [but] what do you do? You can go in and clean up an encampment, tomorrow they move to another spot," Morrison said.

Morrison said that is only part of the problem. The whole area belongs to more than just National City.

"You end up with the county on part of it; you've got Fish and Game, you've got Fish and Wildlife," Morrison said. "There's a lot of different boundary adjustments, a lot of different jurisdictions."

Team 10 visited one of the homeless encampments in the riverbed. A man, who was identified as the leader of the camp, said they are not a problem in the area.

"We don't do anything," said the man, who has been living in the homeless camp for years.

Morrison said it is constant conflict when it comes to the future of the area by the mall. A county representative for Supervisor Greg Cox's office agrees that jurisdiction has been an issue.

"You get this cycle of everyone pointing fingers at each other. From a local standpoint, it's extremely frustrating," Morrison said.

As of Thursday afternoon, fire officials have not identified the person who was killed in the fire.

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