NewsCovering Colorado


Temperatures going down means risk of fires at homeless camps rises

Hancock Wildfire
Posted at 6:27 PM, Jan 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-27 23:23:10-05

COLORADO SPRINGS — A wildfire linked to a homeless camp spread to .15 acres and forced a more than three-hour closure of Hancock Avenue near Evergreen Cemetery in Colorado Springs.

The damage estimate is close to $5,000.

The large fire brings attention to the broader issue of fires at homeless camps.

Fire Station 3 in Colorado Springs is one of the stations in the city near a corridor where a lot of homeless camps can be found.

“Having been around this station for seven years, [I] have a lot of different experiences with going into these camps,” said Captain Steve Oswald with CSFD.

Numbers from this station and others near homeless camp locations add up to thousands of calls a year for homeless fires.

“Some of them are smaller, some of them are hidden. Some of them figure out ways to keep the fires hidden. But the ones that tend to cause the most concern are those that get left unattended, maybe they left the camp didn't fully put it out,” said Oswald.

The frequency and the challenge of getting to some of these fire locations have the potential to impact other emergency calls.

Oftentimes, we have to leave our type one engine sitting on a street and then we go a long ways off in a brush truck,” said Oswald, “Which then means it takes us a while to get back. Many of the fires also require us to hike into.”

Experienced firefighters also know the lower the temperature the higher the alarm load for homeless fires.

“It's not something we can take lightly. There can be danger, when we're going down in those situations, we don't know whether they're going to be under-control fires or out-of-control fires,” said Oswald.

Firefighters plan on a busy weekend ahead because temperatures are expected to drop.

Watch KOAA News5 on your time, anytime with our free streaming app available for your Roku, FireTV, AppleTV and Android TV. Just search KOAA News5, download and start watching.