Banning, CA: Old Habits Die Hard

Posted on Jun 30, 2021 | No Comments

En route to Palm Springs earlier this week, I stumbled on a fire at a homeless encampment at the east end of town.

From the I-10 freeway I noticed thick black smoke wafting over the downtown area. I exited at Hargrave Street and found the fire was just a block away. I had a camera and telephoto zoom lens behind the seat of my truck so I was able to capture this image as a firefighter knocked down the flames.

Fires and homelessness seem to go hand-in-hand here in Banning: The city erected Ramsey Village last year, only to have it burn down six months later. There’s a hotel building on Ramsey Street that was being rehabbed and has been set on fire by vagrants not once, but twice in one week. I guess homelessness represents job security to police, firefighters, city code enforcement as well as county social workers, as all were observed at the scene.

I used to earn a living chasing news such as this, and then would have considered such an occurrence a gift, as it would mean a newsy photo for the next day’s B-1, but with law enforcement having moved to encrypted radio communications, it’s virtually impossible to keep up with what’s going on in real time anymore, except for being in the right place at the right time, like this.

With so much black smoke in the air and being so close, instinct took over. Old habits die hard.