SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — What used to be home to wildlife along the American River in Sacramento is now home to a growing number of homeless people setting up camp.
Firefighters say they’re seeing a potential record number of people living along the river, sparking concerns during dry conditions.READ MORE: Bishop Blesses Solar Panel's On Zero-Carbon Emission Church Building In Davis
Michael Harpst had another good workout along the American River, but not the best sight-seeing.
“It’s much worse, much worse,” said Harpst. “Somebody was cooking along the road and there was nobody there. They just left it burning. If it was the summertime, this place would be gone in a few hours.”
Tents, clotheslines and blankets are all scattered deep in dry brush. Visitors call it an accident waiting to happen.
“We’ve been biking here for 7 years and we’ve seen fires just swallow the whole big area,” said Harpst.
“So there’s a whole bunch of just dried out land. So it’s very easy to burn it. And then especially when it’s caravans of people that have to cook outside. In the summertime, it gets bad,” said Bader Alameri.READ MORE: Sacramento Police Investigate Deadly Skelton Way Shooting
Sacramento firefighters posted their concerns on social media, hoping to raise awareness about the dangers.
“It’s very difficult to get help to them. The fires move fast. There’s medical emergencies. It’s a slow-moving tragedy to speak quite frankly,” said firefighter Roberto Padilla, Local 522 spokesperson.
Padilla told CBS13 that crews get called to the river multiple times a day. Drone 13 captured video from above just days ago showing hot spots and heavy smoke along the American River. It’s a concern CBS13 reported last year that’s now worse than before.
“These are extreme conditions. These are third-world conditions that these people are living in and it’s happening right in our backyard. It’s disheartening, but it’s real,” said Padilla.
Firefighters and visitors like Harpst are hoping awareness leads to a solution.
“I don’t see them doing anything about it and it’s getting worse. I’ve seen it over the years. If they had done something about it, it wouldn’t be like this,” said Harpst.MORE NEWS: Placer County Expands Vaccine Eligibility To 16 And Older As Thousands Of Appointments Remain Open
Sacramento County has an office focused on homeless initiatives. CBS13 reached out to the County and is awaiting a response to the homeless encampment along the River.