By Madisen Keavy

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A 22-acre vegetation fire that burned along the American River Parkway Wednesday afternoon started near multiple homeless encampments. A Metro Fire of Sacramento spokesperson confirmed it was human caused.

A commercial structure on Hurley Way was threatened and evacuated. No injuries were reported. The fire comes days after Sacramento fire officials told CBS13 that fires that started in homeless encampments happen, sometimes, a dozen times a week.

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“We are not law enforcement. It presents a safety challenge for our crews. We’re having to basically do a search of tents and these spaces to try and evacuate the folks that are living in those spaces,” Sacramento Metro Fire spokesperson Parker Wilbourn told CBS13 on Monday.

Now, 48 hours later, Sacramento Metro Fire crews responded to the 22-acre vegetation fire.

What is the solution?

Sacramento County spokesperson Janna Haynes said the county’s approach comes in two parts: education and action.

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The first, education, is focused on “preventative education” on safe fire use, not smoking where there is tinder, and not cooking on an open flame. The education, Haynes explained, comes with outreach to connect those who lived unhoused with resources they may need, including housing if available.

“In 2021, we saw a lot of fires on the parkway that were linked to encampments, and I think that this may be just the beginning that we’re going to see the same thing,” said Haynes.

The second solution, she explained, comes with housing. Already, there are 60 beds reserved at the Salvation Army for those who live unhoused along the American River Parkway, Haynes said.

These efforts happen alongside fuel reduction, Haynes said, to limit the amount of potential fuel in areas where there may be encampments of people who live unhoused.

“The issue isn’t going away. It’s a very serious one. I don’t want to understate that at all,” said Sacramento County Board of Supervisors Chair Don Nottoli.

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Nottoli said the board is working on a $5 million proposal for a reserve area adjacent to the American River Parkway that would create alternative housing. This proposal is still in the early stages, according to Nottoli.