Caltrans Clears Fire Hazards Along Hwy. 101 Near Site of Homeless-Camp Fires

Cleanup Was in Lieu of Removing Camps Per Centers for Disease Control’s COVID Guidelines

A Caltrans crew removes a 40-cubic-yard roll off container filled with debris and vegetation. | Credit: Courtesy

Caltrans crews removed 10 roll-off bins’ worth of vegetation, debris, and trash from the bushes along Highway 101 between Los Carneros Road and Fairview Avenue in Goleta over a two-week period, pruning trees to give public safety crews better access in case of emergency. Two fires had broken out along the stretch near homeless camps in July, sending flames into the tree canopy and flinging embers across the highway lanes.

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The number of homeless people camping between the roaring Highway 101 and the train tracks has increased since the pandemic, as thousands in Santa Barbara County were thrown out of work and many shelters had to decrease their beds to maintain social distance. The cleanup took place instead of removing the camps in observance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance to not displace residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. The purchase of a motel in Goleta has been in the County Housing Authority’s sites to provide housing for homeless people. If successful, it would result in 65 places to live, but the process is still ongoing.

The removal of 60 tons of underbrush decreased the potential fuel along the highway, and trash bags were provided to the camp residents. They’ll be deposited off the road shoulder, and Caltrans pledged to pick them up weekly. The project was a collaboration between Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office, County Fire, MarBorg, and the California Conservation Corps.

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