Portland firefighters adapting to help homeless

The bureau has a mechanism for tracking fires at homeless camps

A butane bottle exploded and burned a tent at a homeless camp on NE 83rd and Halsey. (Video courtesy of Jim Bradley)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With a recent increase in fires at homeless camps, the most recent one Wednesday, Portland Fire and Rescue is changing how it tracks and responds to fires.

The bureau has several ATVs equipped with water containers that can reach encampments that are located in a field or a place without a road. Lieutenant Rich Chatman says the bureau will move those ATVs to fire stations that serve homeless encampments.

The bureau also has a better way to track fires at homeless camps. Under the previous database, an incident was flagged simply as “interaction with a homeless person.” Now, there is a specific category for fires at camps.

“When we want to look at that data, we can have a statistician query it,” says Chatman.

When asked about the cost to taxpayers, Chatman says there is no dollar amount attached to homeless fires. Unless firefighters are getting overtime, it’s not an added expense.

“At the end of the day, this is by all accounts, a residence. It’s just one that doesn’t have a roof on it.”

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