The Coast News Group
Encinitas fire near Lazy Acres on Monday
A vegetation fire just west of I-5 behind Lazy Acres grocery store on Monday in Encinitas. Photo by Allison Lantz
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Shirtless man seen leaving area of Encinitas brush fire

ENCINITAS — A shirtless man was captured on cellphone video leaving the area of a small vegetation fire earlier this week near some homeless encampments behind Lazy Acres in Encinitas.

Battalion Chief Jorge Sanchez, of the Encinitas Fire Department, told The Coast News firefighters responded to a fire at approximately 5 p.m. on Monday in a wooded area just west of Interstate 5 and north of Encinitas Boulevard.

Leucadia resident Allison Lantz was attending her child’s baseball practice at Paul Ecke Sports Park when she noticed a group of kids and parents gathered near a fence overlooking the freeway.

“We were at baseball practice and people said there was a fire in the bushes next to the freeway,” Lantz said.

Lantz said after some parents called 911 to report the blaze, she observed a shirtless man emerge from the bushes just south of the fire, climb over the guardrail and walk down the side of the freeway toward the offramp at Encinitas Boulevard — all of which Lantz captured on her cellphone camera.

The fire, which was initially believed to be the result of a cooking fire due to its close proximity to several well-known homeless campsites, was contained to approximately 1/4-acre with no injuries or property damage reported. The cause of the fire was undetermined, according to fire officials.

According to Battalion Chief Josh Gordon, who was one of the first responders to arrive on scene, said he became concerned when flames started to climb the Eucalyptus trees, which could have grown the conflagration by casting burning embers on a dirt frontage road below. Gordon said firefighters cut a fire line and brought a hose from a nearby residential cul de sac to extinguish the flare-up.

According to Gordon, the fire was located between two homeless campsites but it was not started in an encampment.

Sanchez confirmed Sheriff’s Deputies made contact with the shirtless individual but it is unknown if he had any connection to the fire. The Coast News has submitted a request to the Sheriff’s Department seeking any information regarding law enforcement’s interaction with the man seen leaving the area.

Lantz, an attorney who is currently a stay-at-home mother, said the fire is just the latest incident arising from the city’s out-of-control homeless population.

“I think that the homeless issue and encampments have gotten completely out of hand in Encinitas and its apparent to most everyone,” Lantz said. “The city has done little to manage it. That’s ridiculous for a town of this caliber. As a parent, I think its gotten much worse. Everyone knows homelessness is a complex issue, it’s not an easy fix, but the city needs to be doing something more to manage it. The situation has changed a lot in the city in the last five years. I think everyone is seeing that.”

Earlier Monday morning at approximately 1:45 a.m., Encinitas firefighters responded to a barn fire located at the end of a long private drive off 5th Street behind Schmidt Electric and Grangetto’s Farm and Garden Supply. Despite reports of several explosions, the fire was put out without any injuries to people or horses in open stables nearby.