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Mounting debris at homeless encampment a 'daily' concern for fire department, chief says

Police and fire officials inspect the encampment at he Charlottetown Event Grounds after a fire broke out early Tuesday morning. (CBC - image credit)
Police and fire officials inspect the encampment at he Charlottetown Event Grounds after a fire broke out early Tuesday morning. (CBC - image credit)

Charlottetown's fire chief is concerned about mounting debris and other hazards at a homeless encampment after the department was called to a fire at the site Tuesday morning.

The fire was contained to a garbage can, and nobody was injured, but it sent toxic smoke billowing into the air at the Charlottetown Event Grounds. Chief Tim Mamye said despite the wet weather of late, the mounting debris at the site is a cause for concern.

"Any sort of a spark can ignite and it will smolder for a long period of time before it kicks into flames," said Chief Tim Mamye.

"Those are concerns we have on a daily basis. So we're working with our partners to try to get that area cleaned up. That is one of our priorities here."

Jane Robertson/CBC
Jane Robertson/CBC

Police and firefighters have been called to the site multiple times in the months that it has been occupied by people experiencing homelessness.

Firefighters have removed propane tanks and other hazards from the area, and did so again Tuesday. They inspected the grounds, and checked each tent and wooden structure.

Cause of the fire still under investigation

Charlottetown isn't the only city trying to balance the safety of residents while finding solutions to homelessness.

CBC
CBC

In recent weeks, people have died in encampment fires in Toronto and Edmonton. Regina, Winnipeg and Kitchener-Waterloo have all recently had fires in homeless encampments.

The cause of the Charlottetown fire remains under investigation. Burned electrical wires were found in a garbage can.

Mamye is encouraging people at the encampment to consider the province's new mobile housing units.

"That's a safe way to get out of the cold," he said.

Wayne Thibodeau/CBC
Wayne Thibodeau/CBC