NewsCovering Colorado


A nearly daily dispatch: CSFD responding to fires at homeless camps

Posted at 7:04 PM, Nov 21, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-22 08:47:27-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — Colorado Springs firefighters responded to multiple fires started in homeless camps Tuesday morning.

During colder months it happens more days than most people realize.

Dispatch data from the Colorado Springs Fire Department shows they responded to fires connected to homeless camps 30 times in September, 66 times in October, and the number for November is 60 with nearly two weeks remaining in the month.

“Certainly, that's a lot of responses and potentially can take us away from another emergency, like a heart problem or structure fire,” said Lieutenant Trevor Leland with CSFD.

Small warming or cooking fires can create multiple high-risk situations.

Firefighters often do not know if they are going to a grassfire or a shanty-type structure fire.

“With propane tanks and all different sorts of materials down there that's when it really becomes dangerous,” said Leland, “And those are the ones that tend to be a little bit more on the serious side.”

“You can find a lot of furnishings, you can have chairs, couches, blankets, sleeping pads, which contain a lot of chemicals when burning that are dangerous, dangerous to us respiratory wise,” said Lieutenant TJ Bopp with CSFD.

Firefighters often must wear full gear including masks with oxygen to these kinds of fires to protect them from potential hazardous fumes.

There have been large wildfires sparked by fires at homeless camps that have become a threat to structures.

The fires also pose a threat to the homeless.

There are cases where unattended fires torched camps and killed homeless individuals in those camps.

Then there is the danger to firefighters who have a high-risk job where they also work to minimize the risk.

“We're stumbling down there in the dark trying to deal with a fire. And that that becomes a hazard for us,” said Leland.

When firefighters respond to camps and there are people still around they share information on services that offer shelter and better ways to stay warm.

“If we can move them safely to those shelters, then we eliminate this entire problem of having these outside fires,” said Bopp.

The seemingly straightforward answer is not simple.

If someone does not want to take advantage of available warm shelters you cannot force them to take cover.

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