PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – City Commissioner Rene Gonzalez announced an immediate temporary suspension of tent and tarp distribution Tuesday following a series of tent-related fires in public spaces.
Gonzalez, who is also the Public Safety commissioner, halted distribution within his bureaus after a fire Tuesday morning under the Morrison Bridge at Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard led to the death of a mother dog and six puppies.
No human injuries were reported, but authorities said the investigation is still ongoing.
In a public press release, Gonzalez called the tent and tarp-related fires “a dire public safety emergency,” that puts first responders, homeless individuals and neighborhoods at risk.
“I am taking immediate action to save lives and protect Portlanders from life-shattering injuries,” Gonzalez said. “To Portland’s houseless community members: I implore you to seek shelter in public warming shelters during cold weather events.”
Fire Marshal Kari Schimel said Portland Fire Department has been called upon 1,015 times for tent and tarp-related fires within the past two years, adding that each incident put the first responder’s lives at risk.
“Given the heat sources generating these fires and the flammable nature of the materials in question…there is no such thing as a safe, unsanctioned fire in a tent,” Schimel said.
Despite Tuesday’s decision, tents are unlikely to disappear any time soon: The county has purchased over 22,000 over the past two years.