Fire in Brawley spotlights homeless problem

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BRAWLEY – Shortly after 11:00 a.m. Tuesday morning Brawley Fire Chief Chuck Peraza called in a fire that was located by the Union Pacific railroad tracks south of Malan Road.

Malan Road was closed to through traffic as Brawley Police assisted Brawley Fire.

The fire was a brush fire between Five Crowns Cooling and Top Notch Seed Company. No buildings were affected by the fire.

Union Pacific Police Officer Thomas Farrell was on the scene giving two homeless people citations for allegedly starting the brush fire. They were thought to be smoking.

No one was injured.

Officer Farrell was not authorized to comment.

Top Notch owner Scott Emanuelli said, “I called Union Pacific last week about the homeless people in the overgrown brush. I said that this is exactly what is going to happen.”

Union Pacific has a right-of-way of 50 feet on either side of the tracks. They are supposed to keep this area clear.

Building owner Art Saikhon said, “I tried to get a backhoe in here and they wouldn’t let me do it because it is their right-of-way. If they find one of our trucks parked in a Union Pacific right-of-way, they give us a ticket.”

Farrell told Emanuelli and Saikhon that every few years Union Pacific comes through and clears away brush like this.

The dried brush and a 20 foot tree illustrated the need for immediate cleanup.

The fire was distinguished in a few minutes.

The homeless couple moved on to fine another location.

“We move the homeless from different locations,” said Peraza. “They move on to other places.”