Homeless Encampments: Neighbors want canyon cleaned up after bru - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Homeless Encampments: Neighbors want canyon cleaned up after brush fire

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HILLCREST (NEWS 8) – University Heights residents on Tuesday demanded the City of San Diego take action after a brush fire broke out in a canyon frequented by the homeless.

Crews were able to extinguish the fire that engulfed several palm trees in a median alongside southbound state Route 163, near Washington Street in Hillcrest, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Residents told News 8 they have been complaining about camps in the area for years, and it was just a matter of time until something like Tuesday’s brush fire happened.

“It is just really scary every time you walk across the bridge. You just look down here and think, ‘oh-my-gosh, what is going on down there,’” said D.J. Feueroborn.

Deborah Morrison said the city had been warned. “They promised me that someone would be out yesterday [Monday] to get them out, but as far as I know, that didn’t happen.”

Residents said they are confused because they don’t know who is responsible: The city or Caltrans?

San Diego Police said that under the bridge the jurisdiction falls to the state.

T O’Rourke said he reported the homeless encampments to both Caltrans and the city several times. He even used the city’s “Get-It-Done” app.

The city referred one report 195 days ago to environmental services.

“This is our neighborhood and to have this happen right at the base of our neighborhood is really depressing – it really is,” said T O’rourke.

Homeowners in the area told News 8 they are not letting down their fight to get the canyon cleaned up and make their community safe.

“How much does it cost to put out the fire? How much would it cost to try and clean up the debris? If you are going to have homeless live here, don’t have a fire hazard down there. We don’t need that,” said Feueroborn.

A spokesperson for the city said it is looking into the issue.

Councilman Chris Ward posted on Facebook: "I have been calling for both Caltrans and City assistance to clean up this canyon for some time. The canopy is both a barrier to observing public safety issues and was obvious to everyone as a fire hazard. The finger pointing between the two responsible agencies ends today - it shouldn't take a fire of this size to get cleanup action. I'll be on top of officials to make sure transients are appropriately engaged and redirected and the canyon gets cleaned up and thinned out for good. Hopefully there is no severe damage to our treasured bridge. My sincere thanks to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department for their quick response."

News 8 also reached out to Caltrans during after-hours and did not receive a reply.

The hepatitis A health emergency was declared in San Diego last September and was ended in January.

The city and its partners cleaned out many riverbeds.

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