MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Another fire has been extinguished at the Minneapolis homeless camp along Hiawatha Avenue.
Friday morning’s fire comes 11 days after a fire destroyed 10 tents. And like the fire on Nov. 19, there were also reports of propane cylinders exploding on scene.
City fire officials say the call came in shortly after 1 a.m. Friday for crews to respond to the Franklin Hiawatha encampment.
Six or more tents were on fire when firefighters arrived.
Following the first fire, city officials expressed concern that fires could be a trend this winter as people in the encampment are heating their tents with propane.
“They are using propane and warming fires. And they also have their belongings, clothes, food, and so everything they own is with them in their tents,” Deputy Fire Chief Todd White said.
That translates to a number of flammable materials in a small area.
Fire crews arrived quickly — as the station is just a couple of blocks away — and there were no injuries this time. But as with the previous fire, getting to the source was a challenge.
“It is a congested, confined area,” White said. “Tents on top of tents and people with their belongings on top of people.”
Firefighters also have to be careful of hazardous materials in the area. As they put out hot spots Friday morning and began the cleanup, they were encouraging people to take advantage of the warming tent across the street that was added this week. It’s also doubling as a dining hall and meeting space for the approximately 200 people still living here.
The city says by Dec. 10, a navigation center will open a couple blocks away that will offer temporary shelter.
“The encampment is not a safe option, which is why we are working with all of our coalition partners to open the Navigation Center as quickly as possible. In the interim, the fire department will continue to regularly visit those living at the encampment to underscore how important it is to follow fire safety protocols,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said.
An arson squad was on scene as well, hoping to help determine the cause of the fire.
What happened Friday morning is why some say the center can’t open soon enough.
“Very lucky. The weather is right. Not super cold. We have crews and a fire station nearby,” White said.
Social services is working with people who were displaced Friday morning to find shelter. There have also been four drug-related deaths at the camp since September.