Woman suffers burns in 6th fire in 18 months at Maple Ridge homeless camp

Click to play video: 'Fire at Maple Ridge homeless camp' Fire at Maple Ridge homeless camp
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Maple Ridge firefighters say they have significant concerns about fire safety at the “Anita’s Place” homeless camp.

It comes in the wake of the sixth fire at the camp in 18 months, which left a woman with first and second degree burns to her hands and feet and needing treatment for smoke inhalation.

Maple Ridge Fire Chief Howard Exner said crews were called to the camp early Saturday morning, responding to reports that the fire may have spread to a larger wooden structure.

READ MORE: City of Maple Ridge reaches agreement with ‘Anita’s place’ homeless camp

They arrived to find the flames confined to a large tent, but found one woman who had been injured.

She was treated on site by paramedics and taken to Royal Columbian Hospital.

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“One of the concerns we have as a fire department in Maple Ridge with that camp is people using heating appliances that were not meant to be used in close quarters in a tent,” Exner said.

“So we have grave concerns that people will either accidentally cause ignition of a fire or … it will produce enough carbon monoxide that it will cause harm that way.”

READ MORE: ‘We can’t risk people’s lives’: Maple Ridge Council votes to prohibit homeless camp

The City of Maple Ridge agreed to halt an injunction against the camp in Nov. 2017 while the province developed a housing plan for the residents, so long as the campers took steps to address safety issues including regular fire inspections.

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Exner said firefighters have been working with campers since the summer to try and ensure compliance with fire regulations, but have been frustrated.

“We’ve seen that there has been no real attempt or real will to adhere to those fire regulations, so we’re moving that forward right now, which will culminate in going before the courts again,” Exner said.

“The city is working right now to go to court to see if we can find leave to ensure that the fire regulations are followed.”

READ MORE: Long promised modular housing finally set to open in Maple Ridge

In October, the province opened 53 new temporary housing units for the homeless on Royal Crescent, opened 20 new shelter spaces and provided 40 rent subsidies for people to find independent rental homes.

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The last Metro Vancouver homeless count revealed homelessness in Ridge Meadows, which encompasses Maple Ridge, has increased 48 per cent since 2014.

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