Residents Frustrated by Burn Exercises Along American River Parkway

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SACRAMENTO-

Several agencies began conducting training burns along the American River Parkway on Tuesday morning.

Sacramento County Regional Parks, Sacramento City Fire, Metro Fire, Cal Expo and PG&E held their first training burn along the American River Parkway near Sacramento's Woodlake community. Crews began the training Tuesday and will continue until mid-June.

The City of Sacramento prohibits these types of burns. But this was a county-approved operation. Many residents expressed their frustration at the plumes of smoke coming their way.

"They should respect the local ordinances and knock this nonsense off," Woodlake resident Rob Kerth said. "They can mow it down just like everybody else has to do it at their vacant lots. The county turned the parkway into an incense stick!"

Regional Parks said:

"Hosting these training burns within our parkways provides an opportunity to coordinate response protocols between the fire department and County Rangers and reduces the amount of fuel in the parks which could, if left in place, increase a fire's intensity and speed."

However, some residents are not buying it. They agree training is great and necessary. But why choose this location, next to several residential neighborhoods?
They have their own concerns.

"Oh, that's just a smokescreen," Kerth said. "They are burning the parkway up because they want to prevent the fires that they are going to get later in the year from the homeless that camp out here.

"It's not solving any problems," Bill Farrell, president of the Woodlake Neighborhood Association said. "The core problem is the city and the county can't deal with the situation of illegal camping. And so this is just an exercise and North Sacramento gets scorched instead of addressing the problem.

Farrell, who moved to the area 30 years ago, said the neighborhood has changed. He said before, the parkway was a "jewel," but now it is "pillaged" due to the homeless and their illegal activity.

He and Kerth said they feel there are two parkways -- the "nice" parkway upstream, and the "pigsty," near their Woodlake community. They hope the county finds a way to permanently fix the problem, instead of simply practicing burn exercises that deter illegal campers from staying -- only temporarily.

"They are ruining nice habitat," Farrell said. "You are not going to see deer coming down to the river all of the turkeys will be gone. It's just unfortunate we are in this situation."

The practice burns will continue for three more weeks at various locations across the American River Parkway. All agencies will have a media day Wednesday morning to address details of the exercises and residents' concerns.