PORTLAND, Ore. – A fire at a homeless camp Friday morning was at least the second in as many days. And as winter weather settles in, the season for problems with homeless campers and fire is on the rise.
The fire under the east end of the Morrison Bridge broke out after 7:30 in the morning and quickly spread, fueled by a propane tank that vented and shot flames 20 feet in the air. The fire sent at least two occupants scrambling from a tent.
“The occupants became aware and were able to wake up two other occupants and get them out of the tent, and then they actually started dragging things away to create a fire break,” said Captain Louisa Jones with Portland Fire & Rescue. "So it didn’t spread tent-to-tent, tarp-to-tarp."
Another fire at a homeless camp under the Ross Island Bridge on Thursday sent smoke billowing into the sky. Nobody was hurt there. But the fires are the latest in what is becoming a common and dangerous trend.
Firefighters are educating campers, when they can, on the dangers of heat or flames near tents and tarps. And of using fuel-fed heat or cooking sources inside tents. Fire and carbon monoxide poisoning are both dangers. They also recommend keeping a bucket of water nearby to fight a fire if it breaks out.
Tony Crawford is homeless and camping under the Morrison Bridge. He said a fire somehow started outside his tarp shelter. It burned some of his things and gave him a scare on Thursday. But he was able to put it out and the fire wasn’t reported.
Crawford has advice for other campers: "Be more alert and more responsible as homeless people. You guys need to man up and step up to the plate and keep your areas clean.”