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Calif. firefighters clean swastikas, graffiti off national forest rock formation

Los Padres National Forest firefighters cleaned vandalism off a rock formation in the Los Padres National Forest



By Stephanie Zappelli
The Tribune

SOLVANG, Calif. — Five members of the Los Padres National Forest fire service spent the day scrubbing away swastikas spray-painted onto a rock formation on Wednesday.

The graffiti also included statements such as “F--- BLM” and “F--- the gays” in red spray paint.

“Life is hard enough. We all come here to get away from that kind of stuff,” Los Padres National Forest fire service spokesperson Flemming Bertelsen said of the graffiti. “It really does put a damper on people’s ability to come out and enjoy the national forest.”

The vandalism was reported to the Los Padres National Forest on Monday, kick-starting the cleanup effort, Bertelsen said.

The rock formation is about a mile from the gate on Hi Mountain Road in San Luis Obispo County.

According to Bertelsen, the property is about three-quarters of a mile outside of the Los Padres National Forest boundary, but the park wanted to remove the vandalism anyway.

“It’s important that we all work together,” he said.

The cleanup crew arrived on site at 10 a.m. and worked through the afternoon for a day of “unglamorous manual labor,” Bertelsen said.

First, they doused the rocks with a citrus-based compound designed to remove graffiti. Then, they sprayed the rocks with a power washer and scrubbed the paint off by hand — repeating this process countless times on Tuesday.

Bertelsen estimated that the cleanup efforts cost about $1,500.

Across the Los Padres National Forest, which spans about 1.75 million acres, park rangers and firefighters clean up graffiti every day.

Bertelsen encouraged folks to report vandalism when they see it in the park.

“Our No. 1 tool is the public. We couldn’t do it without them,” he said.

People can report vandalism by calling their nearby district office or the Los Padres National Forest headquarters at 805-968-6640.

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