Homeless Camp Gets Close Look After Fire Concerns

Some transients say they use propane and don't have open fires

John Palminteri, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Senior Reporter, johnp1250@aol.com
POSTED: 06:35 PM PDT Sep 04, 2013    UPDATED: 09:54 AM PDT Sep 05, 2013 
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MONTECITO, Calif. -

Concerns about fires along the freeway and railroad tracks in Santa Barbara have raised concerns about the location of homeless camps.

Not all of the fires are linked to warming or cooking fires, but fire investigators say some have come from these camps.

One suspicious fire erupted near the freeway in Santa Barbara Tuesday afternoon next to the Ortega footbridge.

NewsChannel 3 went to a homeless camp in Montecito near the freeway where six people live below the trees in the brush. 

John Donahue says he has been there five years but does not have an open camp fire.  He showed us a propane stove with two burners and a new tank. He says it is not a fire hazzard.

The site did have a large amount of trash, including paper products, wine bottles, and beer cans.  Donahue says he tried to clean the area daily. "I take it up to Chevron, they allow me to throw it in their dumpster," said Donahue.

Occasionally he sees a law enforcement officer.

"They come by about every three weeks to a month, to check on me which I appreciate.  Make sure we are here, make sure we are OK," said Donahue.

He says he does not want to live in a local shelter calling them too restrictive. "You have to stand in line for everything and be in by a certain hour,' said Donahue.

Residents in the area say this group is not a problem, they often say hello, and there have been no fires or other concerns at this site.