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Residents angry over Santa Barbara homeless camp fire near occupied properties

A boiling tree and shrub fire along Highway 101 by the northbound Bath Street exit Saturday has residents and business owners nearby fuming.

It came out of this homeless camp. It is one of many similar type roadside fires in the last year . This was was near an area where several street sweepers park, and also not far from a private company’s transportation vehicles and offices.

A local worker Tom Becker saw video of the fire and said, ” I didn’t realize how bad this fire was and I didn’t realize it was this close. ”

He says the area is loaded with dry leaves and other fuel. With wind it would have spread and been significantly more damaging.

The camp was well established . It had furniture, shelving units, tubs of belongings, a cooking area and bikes.

During the fire, a propane tank was in the flames.

Residents nearby say they have seen people coming and going, sometimes with items in carts.

Becker says he has notified the city several times of the problem there and nearby at Mission Creek. ” It’s extremely dangerous, ” he said.

” Imagine what would happen if all the tankers went up. The tram – trolley and the street cleaning. That could have been really ugly , ” said McCorkle .

He read a sign nearby, ” warning state property no trespassing no camping no loitering no littering for any purpose is strictly prohibited and violators will be prosecuted. Signed and dated April 22, 2016. ”

Peter McCorkle pointed in two directions saying, ” there was a huge encampment here . There’s one inside the creek underneath the bridge that gets washed out. ” He says when the rains come, camps or the leftovers are often washed out to the ocean. That creates an environmental waste mystery depending on what was accumulated at the site.

By Monday evening, two people were back in the burned campsite going through the debris and unburnt items.

A stray dog was also seen coming back to the area earlier in the day, going on and off the freeway ramp. The Highway Patrol responded with a motorcycle unit.

Residents say there is a level of compassion here, but not for violations that will lead to property loss or other crimes such as burglaries, drugs, vandalism, and assaults they say have happened.

One resident said she has found trespassers by her door plugging in their phones to outside outlets and ” hanging out ” on her porch.
Many were shocked at the established size of this camp where Saturday’s fire broke out.

” I kind of leave them alone unless they are doing something like a fire, like a camp fire especially in an area where they are surrounded by a three-foot pile of dead leaves, ” said Becker.

Homeless fires have occurred along Highway 101 or train routes through Santa Barbara in the last two years in several areas including near Milpas Street, Bath, Mission, and Arrellaga .

The city recently issued a community message saying they have established a special hotline and a clean up web form to receive input from the public about homeless camps or related problems.

Over the last two years, the city says 93 unauthorized encampments on city streets, freeway on/off ramps, and railway areas have been cleaned up.

Some of the clean up efforts require police, public works, Caltrans , the California Highway Patrol, Marborg trash services, hazardous waste specialists and homeless service organizations.

To report homeless issues:

Illegal Encampment Clean-Up Request Web Form: santabarbaraca.gov/encampment

Illegal Encampment Clean-Up Request Hotline: 805-564-5558

KEYT 2019

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