Clearing Houses

Keswick’s ‘new start’ after Carr Fire failed

Marla Fowler remembers what Keswick has become every day as she gazes at the piles of rubbish and rubbish, camper vans, caravans and other vehicles strewn across a plot of land opposite her home.

“It’s an irritant and anxiety every day, because it’s the first thing we see every morning and the last thing we see at night, let alone when they decide to fight near our driveway. It’s awful,” Fowler said.

She is just one of many neighbors who have complained to county officials about what they describe as county code enforcement violations and squatting on numerous lots in the Keswick area of ​​the west of Redding.

Reports of dilapidated buildings, accumulated rubbish and abandoned vehicles are not new to the Keswick area.

But locals said they hoped that after the 2018 Carr Fire – which erupted four years ago this weekend – the community could rise above its reputation and start fresh.

In the street grid of the central part of the community, the fire burned quickly and intensely, destroying almost everything in the area. Only ashes, bricks and twisted metal skeletons remained after the fire burned.

Only two houses have survived in the center of Keswick. Even the fire station, with firefighting equipment still inside, was gutted and had to be demolished.

As in other areas of the county that burned in the Carr fire, excavation equipment was brought in to remove all debris and ash from each plot.

Many have been scraped to bare earth. New houses were built, some people brought new prefabricated houses. County officials have allowed others to stay on their property in trailers until more permanent homes are built.

Fowler said the new homes being built gave Keswick a chance for a “fresh start”.

“People were getting their nice new homes, cleaning up their gardens and taming a bit – and then it was just getting started,” Fowler said, referring to lots full of bric-a-brac.

“Worse and worse”

On some of the lots, residents began driving around in numerous trailers, motor homes and other vehicles, residents and county officials said.

“It’s slowly progressing. It’s getting worse and worse,” Fowler said.

Keswick residents aren’t the only ones complaining about abandoned homes and building violations.

There are 17 active code enforcement cases in the Keswick-Shasta area of ​​the county, according to Adam Fieseler, deputy director of the county’s resource management department.

Across the county, there are thousands of active code violations that officials are dealing with, he said. Each alleged violation must undergo inspections, landlord notices and possibly even legal proceedings before the county can take action to clean up a plot, he said.

“Many different problems”:After reports of thieves in the Keswick area, Shasta Co. plans to sweep

In 2022, authorities received more than 200 confirmed code violations countywide, he said.

In some cases, if the landlord fails to comply with an infraction cleanup, the county will do the work to clean up a parcel. But the county has a limited budget for that, Fieseler said.

“And typically we can do three to four small to medium cleanups a year,” Fieseler said.

A burned out trailer and vehicle lie in a field in Keswick, where neighbors recently complained of building code violations.

While the number of complaints in the Keswick area may seem low compared to the county as a whole, residents there are organized. They held community meetings and invited their county supervisor, Tim Garman.

Residents also spoke at Board of Supervisors meetings about their issues.

Garman said the council plans to consider setting aside more money to tackle cleaning up run-down lots in the county.

Related:After the Carr fire, it’s “one thing after another” in Keswick. This is the last

“It costs a fortune. We don’t have much in that budget, so we’ll consider increasing that budget. It’ll never be enough. But every penny we can put into it. It’s another camper because that we can get off those properties and clean them up,” Garman said. “We have to do something.

Neighbors work with supervisor

Bob Bruce, whose home burned down in the Carr fire, said he had been trying since September 2021 to remove trailers and other materials he said had been illegally placed on part of his property.

He said county officials cited him for illegally having trailers and other materials on his property, but he can’t remove the items because the owners called the sheriff’s office to stop him from removing their business of his plot.

“I spent all that money doing all that. It was bad. For nine months I banged my head against the wall,” Bruce said. “But now it’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to put up with it anymore.”

Bob Bruce said he was trying to remove trailers and other personal belongings illegally placed on part of his property in Keswick, west of Redding.

Garman said Bruce’s issues are just one of many issues he’s been dealing with recently.

“People are frustrated. They’ve been dealing with it for over 30 years and they’re done with it,” Garman said.

Josh Emerson lives with two other people across from Fowler, on the property she complains about is littered with RVs and trash. He said he had been contacted by county officials and intended to move his belongings off the property.

He said it had been slow for him, as he found out while he was in prison that he had leukaemia.

On a recent hot Shasta County afternoon, Emerson had pulled out his tools to work on an RV on the property at Market Street and Iron Mountain Road near the “Welcome to Keswick” sign.

Previous:Carr Fire has ‘obliterated’ the small community of Keswick

Josh Emerson, who lives on a property on the corner of Iron Mountain Road and Market Street in Keswick, said his leukemia had slowed his progress in loading his vehicles so he could drive away.

Emerson said he has the owner’s permission to remain on the property, but plans to operate and load his vehicles so he can leave the lot.

While residents have asked the county to remove squatters from certain properties, Fieseler said resource management does not remove those who live illegally on someone else’s land.

Instead, the department is working with owners to correct code violations, he said.

Fieseler said it is up to landowners to address squatting issues by using other legal means, such as an eviction, to evict people living illegally on their land.

Damon Arthur is Record Searchlight’s resources and environment reporter. He is part of a team of reporters who investigate wrongdoing and find the unknown voices to tell the stories of the North State. He welcomes story boards at 530-338-8834 by email at [email protected] and on Twitter at @damonarthur_RS. Help local journalism thrive by subscribing today!