PORTLAND, Ore. -- As temperatures continue to get cooler at night, fire officials are expressing concern over the potential danger of fires at homeless camps.
On Friday morning, flames destroyed a tent and belongings at a camp along Interstate 84 near the Northeast 33rd Avenue exit. No injuries were reported.
While a candle is believed to have started the fire, officials say it serves as a good reminder of the potential dangers of campers using open flames.
“Definitely, concern for the individuals,” said Captain Louisa Jones with Portland Fire and Rescue. “As the temperatures drop, those warming fires increase.”
According to Jones, the fire department has been directed to allow cooking and warming fires at homeless camps, so long as campers remain safe and there’s no risk of the fire spreading.
“When we’re out and about, we’re making sure they keep the fires away from their tent material and sleeping material,” Jones said. “Sleeping bags, tents, tarps, are all highly flammable. If they get those too close, they could end up burning their entire camp.”
Jones said that some homeless campers appear to be getting the safety message. Campers who spoke with KGW on Friday said they’re aware of the dangers, too.
“I tend fires all the time, especially with the wind and everything else. It’s scary,” said Shawn, who was camping near the east end of the Morrison bridge. “We’re pretty careful, though, with watching the fires for the most part.”
“We just make a little fire. We keep warm. We get used to it,” said Nomar Colli, another camper at the Morrison site. “We worry about other things. Everybody knows what they’re doing.”
“There’s nothing wrong with a fire. A fire’s good if they keep it in a barrel,” added Dino Sanchez, who’s also homeless. “It’s not a concern. They got a great fire department in Portland.”
In regards to the Friday morning fire at the camp along I-84, Captain Jones said that the homeless individuals at the camp were able to receive assistance from the Red Cross.