SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — New efforts are underway to protect Sacramento's American River Parkway from fires.
On Wednesday, Sacramento County supervisors approved spending more money to prevent blazes from breaking out. The funding even includes purchasing some new eyes in the sky.
The American River Parkway has been more than a hot spot for an unprecedented number of fires this summer.
"The parkway is 4,800 acres, 15% of it has burned," said Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation.
"We've seen far more fires this year than we have in years past," said Ken Casparis with Sacramento County Regional Parks.
Most are suspicious, including two that started in the early morning hours on Monday and Wednesday of this week near Howe Avenue.
They're just the latest blazes that many people blame on the growing number of homeless encampments.
"There is a significant transient population in those areas," said Capt. Parker Wilbourn with Sacramento Metro Fire Department.
Now, county leaders have approved spending more than $1 million to help protect the 23-mile long nature preserve and recreation area. The majority of the money is going to hire new park rangers who will tackle the environmental impacts of the homeless crisis.
"The fires caused by illegal campers are harming the parkway," Poggetto said.
But the new spending also includes nearly $9,000 to purchase a new surveillance drone that can spot hidden homeless camps.
"The American River Parkway is vast, so our rangers can't be everywhere and there are certain places that might be difficult to get to on foot," Casparis said. "Having that drone is going to help the rangers see areas of the parkway that they may not have otherwise."
Money will also be spent on fire-prevention efforts like clearing away dry brush.
"If you remove the fuel from being able to burn, it removes the likelihood of larger fires having the ability to grow," Wilbourn said.
And a new idea is to pre-treat portions of the parkway with the same kind of fire retardant that is dropped from air tankers to help slow any future fires.
It's all an effort to protect the once pristine natural beauty, charred by flames. An attack plan to douse the danger is now on the way.
"We are so blessed to have this resource in our community," Poggetto said.
The first new fire prevention efforts are scheduled to take place along the portion of the parkway behind Cal Expo.
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