Temporary encampment in Winnipeg to be shut down after latest fire

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Global's Marney Blunt reports on the city's demolition of a Winnipeg homeless camp following a fire.

A temporary encampment in Winnipeg’s South Point Douglas area will be shut down Thursday morning after another fire got out of control.

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was called to a temporary encampment near Martha Street and Henry Avenue Tuesday afternoon for reports of a teepee fire. Crews were called to that same spot a week and a half earlier when a tent went up in flames.

The city had previously said it would not remove the teepees because they are recognized as being sacred, but it’s now just too dangerous to have people in them.

READ MORE: Teepee set up near Disraeli Bridge destroyed in fire

“While only one person was reported injured to date, inspectors and responders identified numerous fire and life safety hazards at the temporary encampments,” a city spokesperson said in an email.

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“It is only through extraordinarily good fortune that there have not been any serious injuries or deaths in the previous fires.”

The teepee fire on Tuesday is believed to be accidental after a candle was left burning in a tent.

A man who lives at the encampment told Global News someone is typically assigned to watching over fires.

“The firekeeper wasn’t supposed to leave and I guess he did and that’s how the fire started,” the man said.

READ MORE: City shifts gears on addressing homeless camps throughout Winnipeg

The city noted many of the occupants are using candles, propane heaters or small campfires inside of tents which is dangerous and poses a high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as the structures are not properly vented.

“We recognize this is not an ideal outcome, but hope the individuals will accept the supports they are offered and utilize one of the many open shelter beds in the city — especially considering this week’s extreme cold snap,” the city said.

Crews will begin cleaning up Thursday and social outreach providers will be working with those living at the camps to help make arrangements for alternate shelter.

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