SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – There’s no doubt that many nerves are raw after a devastating and deadly fire season. Now as temperatures drop, there are increasing concerns with a rise in homeless camp fires.
“Every winter we see a change in our calls and right now we are seeing more calls from our transient population,” said Sacramento Fire Department spokesperson Chris Vestal.
The Sacramento Area Firefighter’s Union posted its concerns on Facebook, saying it is seeing everything from small debris fires to garbage can flames right next to buildings. Firefighters are worried the fires will trap people living in the camps or spread to homes and businesses.
“It’s just freezing weather. To be outside with ten tarps and three blankets doesn’t suffice for anybody,” said Bobbie Wooten, founder of Feed Sacramento Homeless.
Wooten said she understands fire fears but is also concerned about an underlying problem. Wooten points to the pandemic forcing people out of work and onto the street. It’s a problem city leaders struggle to address.
“Because of COVID and because of the rules where we couldn’t move any homeless people, they’ve grown in size,” Vice Mayor Jeff Harris told CBS13 in early November after concerns of homeless camp fires compromising infrastructure.
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Crews had to put out a fire inside a drainage pipe started by a homeless camp in early November, but it’s something we’re bound to see more of as we head into winter.
“They’ve got to deal with freezing temperatures they have to deal with storms that will leave all of their supplies wet and basically you can’t use them,” Wooten said.
Vestal said it’s also critical warming fires get reported correctly as a camp fire and not a vegetation fire so crews bring the right equipment to put the fire out quickly.