Sacramento City Fire Department spokesman Roberto Padilla took Fox40’s Ben Deci on a tour of the American River Parkway. After an already intense fire season, he wanted to show us what is there, and what isn’t anymore.
“There’s acres upon acres and acres of this specific type of fuel load,” he said, gesturing to a bramble pile several feet high.
The tour took them through one sooty scorch-mark after another. They are monuments to a wildfire season that has been twice as tough here as it was last summer.
And now Padilla is putting forward an unheard of idea for the Parkway: the Fire Department starting some fires of its own.
“It wouldn’t even be acres at a time you’re talking about. Just setting a 5′ x 30′ strip and burning that guy off and then doing another,” Padilla said.
He’s talking about controlled burns to get rid of some of the critically dry fuel that wildfire loves.
“An out-of-control controlled burn is another compelling argument,” said Stephen Green, President of the Save the American River Association. “It would happen. Absolutely.”
Green lives along the parkway. He’s convinced that, sooner or later, houses like his would be threatened by a controlled burn policy.
And he says there are other policies fueling this problem.
“This community has not done what it can do for those people camped on the Parkway. And they’re camped the entire length of the parkway,” he said.
In December 2011, Police were sent to break down tent cities in Center City Sacramento, and clear-out the the homeless people who lived in them. It is now clear where many went- deeper into the underbrush along the American River.
Roberto Padilla agrees it’s a problem. Whether they are starting the fires or not, he says it is often their lives put at risk by the fires.
“There were people fleeing. Running for their lives,” he said, describing a recent grass fire along the Parkway.
After 24 fires this year, Padilla says we should all feel that urgency.
“We’re in the middle the drought. This isn’t next year. This isn’t five years from now, or going to put a committee together to talk about it. This is the now. This is happening,” he said.