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American River Parkway Fires Put Focus On Homeless Camps Amid Dry Brush

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Ian Schwartz Ian Schwartz
Ian Schwartz comes to the great state of California from Albuquerque,...
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SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — With two large fires near Cal Expo this early in the fire season, fears are growing of more fires that could claim homes along the American River.

Coupled with the drought and dry brush are concerns homeless camps could be responsible for starting the fires.

Zac Adams lives close to the American River Parkway, and he says seeing several fires close to home has him concerned.

“I saw a big black cloud of smoke and I saw my Fourth of July ruined more or less ruined,” he said. “I’m just waiting for that comes and burns our house down.”

No homes burned in the July 4 fire, but smoke from the 160-acre blaze postponed a Sacramento Republic FC match and nearly meant the cancellation of the Cal Expo fireworks show.

Jeff Leatherman is the director for regional parks in Sacramento County and oversees 5,000 acres along the American River.

He says they cut wider fire breaks this year along the river because of the drought conditions, but he says one of the biggest risks they face is homeless people illegally camping.

“They have cooking fires, and they cook meals out here on the parkway,” he said. “and those are fires that can get away and start larger fires.”

Park rangers patrol the riverbanks writing citations all day and night throughout the year. But Leatherman says when transients are kicked out, they often just move to a news spot.

“Sometimes you can feel like each progress and each step that you make is also a step backwards, but it’s our job to just keep at it,” he said.

He says there is no plan to hire more park rangers, so their fight against the fire risk goes on.

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