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KOIN 6 News

Homeless camp fires increase in Portland, fire officials say

By Emma Jerome,


PORTLAND, Ore. ( KOIN ) — Portland Fire & Rescue officials told KOIN 6 that year after year, they’re responding to more and more homeless and tent fires across the city.

In all of 2021, PF&R reports they responded to 443 homeless tent or camp fires. So far in 2022, the department said there have already been 444 fires connected to homeless tents or camps.

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Fire officials said it’s tricky to balance public safety when it comes to fires at homeless camps.

While there are laws against public burning, there are some exceptions as temperatures start to drop.

Lt. Laurent Picard says PF&R is constantly balancing the enforcement of illegal fires in the city with the danger that those who are homeless could get sick or die during cold weather.

He says they use a multi pronged strategy, including increasing shelter space and capacity during severe weather. He noted crews are more lenient about enforcement of illegal fires at camps during severe cold weather, provided they are 25 feet away from structures and aren’t endangering tents or other campers.

However, when it comes to wildfire season, Lt. Picard said crews extinguish all fires at campsites.

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In order to protect both campers and adjacent properties from wildfire danger, Portland City Council approved PF&R protocols that aim to keep homeless community members from camping in large forested swaths of the city during wildfire season,.

Fire officials urge individuals to call the non-emergency line to report small fires at sites that don’t appear dangerous and if a fire appears to be out of control call 911.

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