No injuries reported after fire at downtown St. Paul encampment
Friday, fire crews responded to an early-morning fire at a homeless encampment in St. Paul.
The fire happened around 2 a.m. near Cedar Street and Kellogg Boulevard.
Firefighters said multiple propane tanks exploded and about seven tents were affected. Firefighters reported the fire is under investigation, but said it appeared to be accidental and that investigators suspect "the use of open flames for heating near easily combustible material" as the fire’s potential cause.
No one was hurt, firefighters said.
City officials said as many as 300 people currently need a place to stay and fire crews say temporary shelters present risks, with people packed into tents that can go up in flames quickly.
Thursday, 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS reported information from the St. Paul Fire Department (SPFD) which indicated that, since late November, the Kellogg Boulevard encampment, between Wabasha and Minnesota Streets, has been the scene of 15 fire calls and 25 medical calls, with multiple fire hazards.
For the entire year, according to an update from SPFD Friday, the department has responded to that area 17 times for fire emergencies and 75 times for emergency medical calls for service.
5 EYEWITNESS NEWS spoke with one woman who was able to escape injury during a recent fire at an encampment, but she lost items in the flames.
"I don’t know what to do, I really don’t," the woman said. "Like this lady said, she’s gonna help me get a few things. But, that’s like, oh, I am tired of getting a few things and starting over."
City officials said they are hoping to have everyone in a safer place by Monday.
Two facilities have opened since Thanksgiving.
Those—along with the former Bethesda Hospital, which is expected to open within the next couple weeks as another shelter—will add nearly 200 new beds for people in need.
Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said the 50-bed Strong Tower shelter and the 50-bed Homeward Bound shelter are set to open this month. The Indoor Villages project of 100 indoor tiny homes inside a warehouse is also set to open by the end of the month.