In the aftermath of a riverbed blaze that destroyed two homes and damaged nine other structures, the city of Paso Robles is allocating new funds toward reducing fire risk in the Salinas Riverbed.
At a special meeting Wednesday, the Paso Robles City Council allocated $278,000 toward efforts to mitigate riverbed fire risk. The city plans to cut grasses and remove brush.
Previously, the council allocated $336,000 toward emergency fuel reduction work done in 2019. Additionally, earlier this year, the city received $180,000 in grant funds for the project via the San Luis Obispo Fire Safe Council.
During mitigation work performed last year, city crews created a riverbed firebreak. Nonetheless, fires have continued to break out in the riverbed, including the June 22 fire that destroyed two homes and damaged nine other structures.
Initially, some observers speculated homeless individuals in the riverbed may have started last month’s fire. But, the initial findings of a county fire investigation team suggest a weed abatement program likely caused the blaze.
Since last month’s fire, the city has gained approval from the Regional Water Quality Control Board to move forward with an emergency plan. The emergency plan allows the city to continue improving and expanding the firebreak while developing a long-term plan to manage vegetation in the area.
Emergency efforts to clear hazardous fuels from the riverbed began on July 1. The work includes equipment mowing, weed whipping and additional mastication to expand the depth of the firebreak throughout the riverbed.
Officials are closing portions of the Paso Robles river walk as crews operate in the area. In addition, city staff is working to remove approximately 200 homeless people who live on the river bank.