Caltrans has completed a two-week project to reduce fire hazards along the Highway 101 corridor between Los Carneros Road and Fairview Avenue in Goleta, where several encampment fires sparked last month.
“We are so grateful to Caltrans crews for the hard work they put in the last two weeks to address this important public safety concern,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said.
In total, Caltrans removed more than 60 tons of underbrush and cleared paths so that emergency responders have access to the area in case of an emergency. Crews cleared brush and dead vegetation, trimmed trees and pruned remaining tree canopies in order to reduce the fire hazard.
Ten 40-cubic-yard MarBorg containers were filled with debris and hauled off.
“We were very happy to assist the City of Goleta in this effort to essentially clear brush with the goal of reducing fire threat near Highway 101,” said Jim Shivers, Caltrans public information officer. “This was a very successful operation. A lot of brush was cleared from the area.”
The buildup of dense vegetation, trash and debris through the corridor has been a public safety concern since several vegetation fires broke out in the homeless encampments in July.
“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.
Not only does clearing brush reduce the risk of fires, it often opens up the view for drivers to proceed safely through the highway, Shivers said.
The project began July 28 and ended Aug. 7.
As part of the project, Caltrans provided trash bags to people living in the encampments as a way to reduce the fuel load. Caltrans picks up the full trash bags weekly to reduce the amount of buildup in the area.
“Our goal in this case was to essentially reduce the risk of fire. Our work through the corridor in Santa Barbara and Goleta is ongoing,” Shivers said. “We want to make sure that the roadway is maintained and in good condition for the public.”
The city plans to continue close coordination efforts with allied agencies to do everything it can to ensure safety for the entire community, Perotte said. Collaborative partners in the project included the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, Santa Barbara County Fire, MarBorg Industries and the California Conservation Corps.
“While much progress was made,” Perotte said, “there is still more work that needs to be done.”
— 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.