Two cattle shelters that were converted into temporary places where vulnerable people in Wetaskiwin, Alta. could escape the elements were destroyed by fire Monday.
The Wetaskiwin Fire Department was called to a burning complaint at about 4:25 p.m.
The fire chief said firefighters saw the flames through the window and were able to respond fairly quickly, however, much of the damage was already done.
Both shelters were destroyed by the time crews arrived on scene. Nobody was in the structures at the time and no injuries were reported, Fire Chief Leigh Sawicki said.
Firefighters are working with the RCMP to determine what may have caused the fire. They’ll also be interviewing people.
The fire department had received a few burning complaints connected to the converted shelters previously, and the city had recently brought in a burning barrel to address some of the safety concerns.
The city repurposed the livestock shelters in hopes of addressing the “long-standing” issue of homelessness, the city manager said.
However, they were never intended to be a permanent solution.
“This is just a stopgap,” manager Dave Burgess told Global News on Sept. 17.
Burgess and a group of city staff came up with the plan to use the livestock shelters, which the city already had and was previously using at outdoor skating rinks.
They were located in an open field away from businesses and private property.
After five weeks in use, the site was covered in mud, blankets and garbage.
One man, who is a resident of the area and uses the site, didn’t want to be identified but said the site has been used as a place to gather and drink. He added many people using the shelters aren’t homeless.
With files from Global’s Fletcher Kent and Quinn Ohler