After several recent vegetation fires in homeless encampments along Highway 101 between Los Carneros Road and Fairview Avenue in Goleta, Caltrans began work Monday to clear brush and dead vegetation in the corridor in an effort to reduce the risk of such fires.
“The vegetation removal will greatly reduce the fire load in the area and the likelihood of a fire starting in the first place,” said Vyto Adomaitis, director of Goleta Neighborhood Services and Public Safety. “The new visibility through the corridor is expected to reduce the number of new homeless encampments being established.”
The work includes tree trimming and pruning remaining tree canopies along the corridor. Goleta residents can expect periodic shoulder or lane closures along Highway 101 to protect the workers clearing the area.
The City of Goleta is providing large MarBorg containers to support the cleanup effort.
“The danger is not only to encampment residents, but the larger Goleta community given the proximity to businesses and residences,” said Kelly Hoover, the City of Goleta’s public information officer.
The work is expected to be completed by Aug. 7.
The increasing amount of dense vegetation, trash and debris through the corridor has heightened concerns as the city has seen an expansion of encampments since the eruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the city will not be clearing or removing any homeless encampments because of the dangers of the pandemic, according to Hoover.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued guidance not to clear homeless encampments in order to prevent potentially infected or ill individuals from dispersing into the community, Hoover said.
“The pandemic has complicated how these encampments can be addressed,” Adomaitis said. “Accordingly, we have modified our approaches.”
In a separate effort to reduce fuel load through the area, Caltrans will provide trash bags to people living in the encampments to use to collect their trash and debris.
Caltrans has requested that those individuals place their full trash bags along the freeway, where they will be picked up weekly.
“The goal is to reduce the amount of trash buildup in these areas, thereby reducing the fuel load,” Hoover said.
“We are continuing close coordination efforts with Caltrans, the California Highway Patrol, the sheriff’s office, Santa Barbara County Fire and other allied agencies to do everything we can to ensure the safety of the entire community,” Adomaitis said.
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.