Barriers block access to Vancouver houseless camp fire

Clark County

No one was hurt, cause under investigation

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A brush fire at a large houseless camp in Vancouver was brought under control quickly once firefighters were able to get to the site early Monday, fire officials said.

The brush fire erupted a little after midnight at 11581 NE 51st Circle. Vancouver firefighters called for extra units to battle the blaze that was showing very large flames.

Once the crews arrived, though, they had trouble getting to the scene because the camp was blocked by concrete barriers blocking the road to the camp, officials said. The fire crews laid “several hundred feet” of supply line to get to the scene.

The fire was quickly put out and no one was hurt.

‘Went from tent to tent telling people to get out’

A woman who lived at the camp told KOIN 6 News she went tent to tent telling people to get out. She asked not to be identified.

She said the flames were “30 to 40 feet up. The tree was really bright.” When she realized how big it was she called 911 — and was put on hold, she said.

“I went from tent to tent yelling waking everyone up and telling them what was going on and that they should grab their propane tanks and get as far as possible,” she said.

The woman said firefighters “couldn’t move the barriers, so they couldn’t get their trucks down there. They had to run their hose all the way from here to the end of the cul-de-sac.”

She added the city of Vancouver put the barriers in place “so people wouldn’t drive down there and do donuts down there.” KOIN 6 News reached out to the city of Vancouver, a spokesperson with the city stated, “there are barriers placed there to prevent illegal dumping at the camp, however they did not in any way block or slow the response from Vancouver Fire in putting out the fire.”

“The city really needs to figure out a better way with the barriers. I get that they don’t want people dumping their garbage here,” she said.

The campers have no idea how the fire started, she said.

“The owner of the tent was not home and he had just gotten home and he had been doing something in the yard, hadn’t gone into his tent yet when someone told him his tent was on fire.”

Two camps were destroyed in the fire, she said. “There’s nothing left.”

Those campers affected by the fire lost whatever they had. The woman suggested people donate items directly or to church organizations “because we all need different stuff.”

Another woman who stays next to the camp said she is thankful the fire didn’t spread to the other tents.

“As dry as its been and the wind it could have been a lot worse then it was,” she said.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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