Series of fires plagues growing Santa Rosa homeless encampment

On Santa Rosa's Joe Rodota Trail, a mile-long homeless encampment has swelled to an estimated 200 people.

"I have friends living on the trail. That's why I’m here," said one homeless woman.

But those living in homes near the trail are becoming more and more frightened.

On Tuesday night, a fire in the camp caused a propane tank to explode. No one was hurt.

"It sounded like a bomb going off," said pat parks who lives nearby.

She even tossed her garden hose over the fence so people could put out the fire, one of many that break out here.

"The fires are really close to our fence. It's kind of scary," she said.

"In the last month we've responded to 25 calls. In the last week or so an average of one a day," said Paul Lowenthal, Santa Rosa's assistant fire marshal.

"I sleep on the couch at night so i can make sure there are no fires going on," said parks.

Another neighbor got Rottweilers to guard his home after his car was broken into.

"My daughter comes late. My wife comes late. We have to come wait for them out here because we're worried who is going to be out walking around," said Silas Alvarenga.

"The majority of people here are well behaved and clean up after themselves," said Maurice Horn who sometimes lives at the camp.

Neighbors on Brittain Lane bought and installed this fence. But part of it was cut down the next day.

Sonoma County declared the trail a homeless emergency last month.

It now provides regular trash pickup and security at night.

The county has come up with a plan to clean up the trail and provide permanent supportive housing and indoor and outdoor shelters. But those plans will take another three to six months to implement. 

"There's got to be something done now. Too many things happening here," says Alavarenga.

The county is also planning a daylong public information meeting Friday about its plans for the trail and those living on it. 

"We used to have our kids playing in the front. Now we can't. Nobody here plays in the street anymore," said Alvarenga.