MONCTON – The Moncton fire department is worried more abandoned buildings in the city are becoming fire hazards after a man died early Thursday morning when a vacant house on Gordon Street burned.
“People try to find ways to stay warm. One way is to get shelter and then try to create a source of hea,t and very often…they’ll use dangerous methods to heat themselves,” said Eric Arsenault, Moncton’s fire chief. “This a problem that’s growing in our city.”
The 55-year-old man who died Thursday morning has not been identified.
“Because the building was abandoned, we’re pretty sure he was not an occupant of the building. [He was] probably a homeless person that was trying to find refuge from the cold,” said Arsenault.
Residents say the home had been abandoned for a long time, but that it didn’t stop people from going inside to seek shelter.
Josh Kindred, who lives alongside the building, shot video of the fire when it was reported around 3 a.m.
“The flames started popping out of the siding probably three to four minutes into filming,” he said. “I know there was homeless people staying there. I talked to one of the guys Tuesday.”
Lise Godin, who lives up the street from the home, said the tragedy could have been avoided if the man had a place to stay.
“We should do something about that,” she said, suggesting homeless people should have alternatives to abandoned properties.
Staff at the Harvest House homeless shelter said the problem isn’t so simple, because some people avoid shelters.
“To be seen going to a shelter is embarrassing for some. It’s difficult,” said Cal Maskery, the shelter’s executive director.
He says shelters can be a positive first step toward getting off the streets, but he says people need to be willing to take it.
“We have schooling. We have…classes, you know. Just things to help move people forward in a productive way,” he said.
There were no other injuries in Thursday’s fire, and investigators are still working to determine what started it.
© Shaw Media, 2013