San Diego clean-up crews turn focus to fire-prone canyons

Posted at 8:48 AM, Aug 23, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-23 18:00:19-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s “Clean SD” initiative is expanding its focus to fire-prone canyons in San Diego.

Earlier this month, city crews began removing trash and other debris from canyons they considered at-risk for fires. City officials said crews have cleared out five tons of trash from that effort thus far.

San Diego Fire-Rescue officials said the number of camping- or cooking-related fires in the city has nearly doubled in the last three years -- from 150 in 2014 to almost 300 in 2017.

RELATED: Councilman wants homeless cleared out after fire near 163

City officials are urging residents to report any areas that may pose any potential problems.

On Thursday, 10News was at a canyon near Chollas Lake Park when a homeless woman was told by San Diego police to move her camp out to make way for clean-up crews.

The woman told 10News she has lived in the same spot in the canyon for about five months after taking it over from another person who she believed was kicked out.

RELATED: Residents worried about homeless people starting fires in Hillcrest

The effort involved city and Urban Corps crews responding to trash complaints via the Get It Done San Diego app, especially from areas prone to illegal dumping like Ocean Beach, Logan Heights and Point Loma.

Clean-up crew member Ferris Penson, who was once homeless himself, said it’s like a never-ending process as the homeless who are moved out often come back within days.

“Just yesterday we went to a camp we were at a month before; completely clean after we left, and we went back yesterday and it looked like someone's been there for like 8, 9 months,” Penson said.

RELATED: Neighbors fearful after string of fires in homeless canyon

When asked if the effort was a never-ending process, Faulconer said, “It's an ongoing effort and it’s a sustained effort. And that was my commitment as we've seen on the river. As we've seen the amount of trash and debris that's going dramatically down. The encampments dramatically down. Why? Because we're serious about it."

The mayor referred to improvements along the San Diego Riverbed where efforts to clear the homeless encampments have been stepped up.

Faulconer pointed out the homeless that are moved out are always offered resources to get them off the streets.