19,000 pounds of trash and materials have been removed in July 

PASO ROBLES — On May 24, notice was provided in the Salinas Riverbed, from Niblick Bridge to the city limits north of the Wastewater Treatment Plant, that the Fire Chief had designated the area as high fire risk. 

This included instructions that all persons must vacate, and all property had to be removed by May 25. Additional notifications have been provided on a continuous basis, and cleanup has been conducted. 

The Community Action Team (CAT), in conjunction with the Paso Robles Fire Department and the Community Services Department, have all worked towards obtaining compliance by identifying and monitoring fire sources, removing trash and discarded materials, and cleaning up unsanitary sites. Once cleaned, the sites were found reestablished, including having open fire pits, propane tanks, gas-powered generators, large car/RV batteries, discarded drug paraphernalia, trash, and unsanitary conditions. 

Getting through this together, Atascadero

From Jul. 13 through Jul. 22, approximately 19,000 pounds of trash and discarded materials were removed at the cost of $9,130.00. 

Six arrests were made for charges including having an illegal fire, drug/paraphernalia possession and refusing to vacate and remove property within the designated high fire risk area. 

On Jul. 16, the Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services were dispatched to a vegetation fire south of the Niblick Bridge within the Salinas River. 

Fire engines arrived at the scene within approximately five minutes and discovered a 50 by 50 fire burning near Kohls in the riverbed. The fire was burning in heavy vegetation between the main river channel and a recently grazed firebreak. Firefighters accessed the fire through the managed firebreak and quickly stopped the fire’s forward spread at one-fourth acre. 

Investigators determined the fire to be human-caused. 

On Jul. 20, the Paso Robles Police Department released a statement saying, “We understand the community’s concern for a clean downtown. The Community Action Team, in conjunction with the Community Services Department, has made a concerted effort to patrol the downtown and remove shopping carts, trash, and discarded items. Several trailer loads and truckloads and approximately 15 carts have been removed over the last three weeks.”

Then on Wednesday, Jul. 28, at approximately 11:27 a.m. Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services responded to a report of a vegetation fire in the riverbed, south of the Niblick Bridge.

First arriving, firefighters found a quarter acre of grass and brush actively burning in the riverbed. Firefighters were able to contain the fire within 30 minutes to one acre and worked to fully extinguish the fire over the next five hours.

The cause of these fires were also found to be human in nature, at the site of a homeless encampment.

The fire was contained on two sides by previously grazed areas and manmade fire breaks.

Then on Wednesday, Aug. 4, at approximately 4:47 a.m. Paso Robles Fire and Emergency Services reported a fire in the Salinas riverbed south of Niblick Road. 

There is no further information is available at this time.

Prior to starting the Salinas Riverbed Project, Interim City Manager Greg Carpenter addressed the residents’ concern for the homeless population and the safety of the community during the dry fire season.  

“Like many cities in California, and around the country and world for that matter, Paso Robles has seen an increase in the number of unhoused local residents, which increased during the Great Recession and again during the pandemic,” Greg Carpenter said. “The issue is a complex one and one that is being wrestled with at the highest levels of government and in courts across the US. What is unique about Paso Robles is that a river runs through the middle of our City, providing relative shelter for unhoused individuals and an increased risk of fires. We have created a FAQ document to help provide context, explain the City’s legal considerations surrounding homelessness and hazardous fuel mitigation in the riverbed, and to provide information on what the City is doing to help address some of the local challenges that have increased homelessness in the area and how interested residents can help.”

The City has addressed a wide-range list of considerations surrounding the issue and impacts of homelessness and how the City needs to clear the Salinas Riverbed of hazardous fuels. 

The impact to the community is currently being discussed at the Paso Robles City Council meetings and at the City level. 

During the Aug. 3 City Council meeting, Mayor Martin said the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce requested to discuss homelessness, its impact on the community, and its frustration with the problem. 

As a result, the Chamber is putting together a plan to issue a solution to homelessness in the area. According to the Mayor, more information on this plan will come, but he did not say when.

The Paso Robles Press has reached out to both the Paso Robles Police Department and the City to follow up on inquires made by local residents about the fire concerns, the growing homeless population, and the safety of the downtown visitors and businesses. We will update this story as soon as we have more information.