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December 16, 2021

Structure in a Homeless encampment adjacent to Peri Park declared uninhabitable

Elliot Smith
Graffiti by an unknown vandal on the back of Contratti Park’s scoreboard reads: “Your shoes R Brighter than our FUTURE.”

On Sept. 20, the Fairfax Police Department and the Ross Valley Fire Department (RVFD) responded to a 911 call regarding an arson attack near Peri Park in Fairfax. The RVFD quickly extinguished the fire, but it left substantial damage to a structure that had been occupied by multiple unhoused individuals.  

No one was harmed in the incident besides the suspected perpetrator, Kachina Moncrief, who sustained minor injuries. The Fairfax Police Department has accused Moncrief of arson, assault, and public intoxication.

Officers arrived at Peri Park at around 12:38 A.M. The officers found out that there had been an altercation at the scene, but it was quickly resolved. The press release sent out by the Fairfax Police Department (FPD) reported that, “Upon further investigation, Officers discovered a small fire intentionally ignited at the homeless encampment by one of the involved individuals during the altercation. Officers assisted the Ross Valley Fire Department in extinguishing the fire quickly. As a result, a portion of the homeless encampment has sustained fire damage and has been deemed uninhabitable.”

The Town of Fairfax advices those living at the site of the Sept. 20 fire that they claim their belongings. (Elliot Smith)

This incident came as a great shock to residents of Fairfax and has resulted in increased attention to homelessness in the community. Residents are concerned about arson occurring so close to a children’s playground, baseball field, and the Fairfax Pavilion community center, all considered vital parts of the town.

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The structure that burned down was located adjacent to the Fairfax town corporate yard, which has since been fenced off following the incident. Moncrief allegedly lit a plastic broom on fire and began setting small fires around the structure, ultimately burning it down. 

63-year-old Robert Ryer, an unhoused resident at the Peri Park encampment, was present during the incident. He began living in the encampment at Peri Park six months ago. Ryer said that he used to be friends with Moncrief but had not been in contact with her for around three years. He had never seen Moncrief in the state of agitation he witnessed on the night of the arson attack. He doesn’t know if there were drugs involved, but he suspects that she is struggling mentally.

An encampment holding three people stands behind Contratti Field in Fairfax. After the fire, the group moved up the hill towards the field. (Elliot Smith)

On the night of the incident, Ryer reported feeling on edge by Moncrief’s presence, and stayed outside his tent in case something happened. He remembers that Moncrief started shouting, and eventually ignited fires around a small structure, leaving a gaping hole in the structure after the fire was extinguished.

“Around 11:30, [Moncrief] started yelling inside the structure and I was trying to stay away from her. She kicked out the back wall, and she started [setting a fire] with a plastic broom. I started stomping out all these fires, she threw the broom at me and I ducked and stamped it out,” Ryer said. 

The arson incident drew increased attention to this encampment in Peri Park and has raised concerns about safety in the area. There have been numerous complaints about the encampment, with residents calling for “anti-camping laws.”

Fairfax town council member Stephanie Hellman believes that the homelessness crisis is “sorely underfunded.” Hellman wonders if the Fairfax town council is allocating enough resources to address this crisis, and if the current spending is in alignment with the community’s needs. 

“I have concerns related to safety after we have an incident like the arson without question. It really stems from folks having their mental health in check. That is where my primary concern is; are they safe?” Hellman said.

Hellman believes that those who complain about the encampment minimize the complexity of the matter. However, as a mother of three, she does sympathize with some of the complaints made by local parents.

Since the incident, Moncrief faces charges of arson, assault, and public intoxication. If convicted of any of these crimes, she could be sentenced with imprisonment, a fine, or  required community service. Moncrief has yet to be arraigned and there is no trial date.

This story was originally published on The Pitch on October 30, 2023.