In a poignant illustration of California’s burgeoning homeless crisis, Christina Rangel, a recently retired school bus driver, lost her residence and belongings to a blaze emanating from a nearby homeless encampment in Riverside. The event underscores the broader societal and governmental shortcomings in addressing homelessness and ensuring community safety.
For 15 years, Rangel enjoyed her Riverside home, investing her energy in rejuvenating her 95-year-old house with new windows, roofing, and electrical work. The fire on August 30, fueled by gusty winds and reportedly originating from cooking equipment in the encampment, obliterated her aspirations of a tranquil post-retirement life. “Right after my retirement, I thought I was going to have my house, relax,” Rangel revealed to KCAL-TV, depicting her anguish as akin to having “the rug pulled from under my feet.”
Homeless encampment fire in Riverside destroys nearby house https://t.co/rWBk7gSBUr
— KCAL News (@kcalnews) September 20, 2023
Surveillance footage from the day captured Rangel’s frantic endeavor to save her two dogs despite firefighters’ warnings. This disaster didn’t just ravage Rangel’s home; it also caused substantial damage to other structures in the area. Rangel’s home was the only structure completely destroyed. She believes now her insurance coverage will not fully reimburse her for the home’s replacement cost.
This fire incident between sound walls alongside the 60 Freeway spurred evacuations of neighboring areas, including a nearby elementary school. Riverside Fire Department cited a decline in such river-bottom fires since the instigation of encampment prohibitions in precarious areas last year, yet instances like Rangel’s signify the persistent risk lingering over the community due to transient encampments.
Despite her personal catastrophe, Rangel displays a profound empathy for the homeless, seeing reflections of herself in them and emphasizing, “I can see them, and I can see myself too — both sides.” However, she is unequivocal in her call for substantive action, pleading, “Somebody should do something. Don’t let them do this.” Her plea is a stark reminder of the human costs of bureaucratic inertia and the urgent need for comprehensive solutions to the homelessness crisis.
Rangel and her daughter established a GoFundMe account to rebuild her life. The fundraiser is a poignant reminder of communal bonds and resilience in adversity despite government’s inability or unwillingness to protect taxpayers.