Fire at homeless camp spreads to house across the street

Posted at 9:57 AM, Jul 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-30 11:57:27-04

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    Portland, OR (KPTV) — A fire at a homeless camp in southeast Portland Monday afternoon spread to a house across the street, according to Portland Fire & Rescue.

Firefighters responded to the 5300 block of Southeast 96th Avenue just after 4 p.m. and found various items, such as tarps, shopping carts, possibly tents, and other miscellaneous items on fire.

The camp was under a tree, which had also caught fire; the area burned was approximately 20-feet by 50-feet, according to fire officials.

Crews after extinguishing the blaze noticed that the roof of a house across the street was on fire. PF&R says embers from the initial fire had drifted across the street and had landed on its roof.

The next-door neighbor, Laura Miller, told FOX 12 she was just turning the corner when she saw what was going on, and she immediately raced inside her home to grab her kids.

“I drove up right when I started, called 911, as I’m on the phone with them, hear a big explosion. The flames are out of control. I thought it was my house at first,” Miller said.

Firefighters were quick to put out the second fire and discovered it had not damaged anything beyond the roof. They doused the flames and used chainsaws to cut off the roofing material to ensure it was fully extinguished.

FOX 12 spoke with the homeowner’s son. He did not want to be interviewed on camera but says the section of the home that caught fire is his mother’s garage and guest bedroom.

Both he and Miller say they’ve noticed the camp for the last couple of weeks.

It was growing into the street, and Miller said she called police before because the camp was making it hard for traffic to get by. But each time they came, she says, the people who stayed here were gone.

Though the fire is now out, Miller told FOX 12 she’s still concerned about this happening again.

“Am I going to sleep tonight? I’m hypervigilant. I found ashes all over our yard, on our cars. Are we safe?” she said.

No one was hurt in either fire and the residents of the house were not displaced, according to PF&R. Fire officials don’t know how many people were residing at the homeless camp at the time of the fire.

The cause of the fire is unclear.

Portland firefighters want to remind people to be extremely cautious in this hot, dry weather.

They say to be aware of embers from barbecues and backyard fire pits, and to keep those at least 15 feet away from your home or other buildings.

Make sure you always have a hose available and all fires are completely out.

Lastly, firefighters say never burn garbage, construction debris, brush or anything other than firewood.

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