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Citing high fire risk, Paso Robles police begin making arrests in Salinas Riverbed

salinas riverbed trash.JPG
Posted at 4:25 PM, Jul 28, 2021

Over the past couple of weeks, seven arrests have been made following illegal activity in the Salinas Riverbed.

The Paso Robles Police Department is cracking down after the area north of Niblick Road to the city limits was deemed a high fire risk area.

On Wednesday afternoon, a plume of smoke rose from the Salinas Riverbed.

"Here we go again," said Israel Saucedo who has a view of the riverbed from outside his home. "We see it all the time. It happens maybe once every couple of weeks. There's just a lot of homeless down there."

For others, there's also the concern of fire spreading, not only within the riverbed but to the nearby homes.

In June of last year, we witnessed that with the River Fire after two homes were destroyed and nine others were damaged.

Saucedo says the fires seem to be nonstop.

"I would say the last year it's gotten worse, a lot worse," Saucedo said.

On May 24, the Salinas Riverbed was deemed a high fire risk area.

"Once that was put in place, we've been noticing for two months now that we were going to do clean-ups to get people to leave voluntarily," said Commander Stephen Lampe, Paso Robles Police Department.

From July 13 to July 22 alone, PRPD says roughly 19,000 pounds of trash was removed.

A couple of weeks ago, the police started taking enforcement action against people moving back into areas that have already been cleared.

To date, seven people have been arrested for drugs, illegal fires, and refusing to vacate and remove property from within the designated high fire risk area.

"The number of fires we're having down here in the Salinas River has just gotten completely out of hand and a lot of those are caused by individuals who are staying down in our riverbed," Cmdr. Lampe explained.

Meanwhile, with peak fire season here and a drought declared, police are ramping up efforts to keep the riverbed clear due to the fire risk.

On top of that, the new ECHO homeless facility is helping give shelter whereas it was not yet a reality during the last peak fire season.

The police department's Community Action Team also helps with resources for those that were living in the riverbed. Members say the number one resource at this time is for mental health.

This month alone, there have been 13 fires in the Salinas Riverbed including the one on Wednesday.