A temporary encampment on Langside Street was destroyed by a fire Sunday evening, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) says.
Fire crews were called to the encampment just after 6 p.m., where they found tents “engulfed in flames and smoke,” as well as small explosions that are believed to have been caused by compressed gas cylinders or propane tanks.
While no injuries were reported and all residents of the encampment are believed to have safely escaped before firefighters arrived, the site is being considered a total loss and one neighbouring house was also affected by minor heat and smoke damage.
Displaced residents were helped at the scene by the Downtown Community Safety Partnership.
Homelessness advocate Al Wiebe told 680 CJOB’s Connecting Winnipeg that the proximity of this encampment fire to neighbourhood houses is concerning.
“It’s really unfortunate that the camp communities are spreading into neighbourhoods,” he said.
“I think a lot of it has to do with they’ve been removed from other spaces.”
Wiebe said he believes new mayor Scott Gillingham and other members of council will take concrete action to address the problem — an issue that came up repeatedly throughout October’s election campaign — but it’s not something that can happen overnight.
“(Gillingham) has a really concrete plan to do that, and he also wants to bring an advisor into the mayor’s office to help with the homeless and housing issue, which is something that nobody’s ever done before… so I’m optimistic about it.”