Multiple fires in B.C. homeless camp are ‘odd,’ fire chief says

A series of fires that have burned multiple tiny homes and other shelters in a homeless camp is being described as “odd” by the fire chief in Prince George, B.C. Over the course of two weeks, from May 27 to June 10, seven shelters were destroyed in five separate fires in the Moccasin Flats homeless encampment, according to city records.

One fire was caused by an “improperly installed heating device,” during that time, said Fire Chief Cliff Warner. But in the seven other cases, “the damage was such that they [the shelters] were mostly destroyed,” he said, making it “difficult to even determine where they started.”

Though there isn’t enough evidence to classify the fires as having been deliberately set, Warner noted the intensity and frequency of the fires is something he would consider “abnormal” and inconsistent with what would be expected if the causes were simply heating or cooking fires getting out of control. “It’s almost a fire every second day, give or take,” he said.

Phillip Fredriksson, a volunteer who helped build some of the shelters that have since been destroyed, was more blunt about the situation, basing his beliefs on conversations he said he’d had with people living in the camp: “These aren’t accidental,” he said. “People are taking advantage of other people in vulnerable positions.”

The fire chief said he has received “anecdotal” information suggesting the fires were deliberately set, “but unless we can prove it unequivocally, we will never go down that path.”

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