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Reno Fire Department responds to uptick in homeless campfires

So far firefighters battled nearly 30 campfires in 2021.
Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 8:14 AM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - As we head into cooler temperatures, the Reno Fire Department (RFD) said it battled nearly 30 homeless campfires this year alone.

According to Battalion Chief Bill Erlach, during the same time last year RFD responded to only 11 calls. He said these fires can spread quickly to other camps, nearby brush, and businesses.

“Despite being out of the heat and dryness of the summer, winter time seems to be our worst fires, so that is one of our concerns there.” He continued, “Along with that, a lot of these camps are located right next to each other and we had instances where the fire would extend to one camp over to the next camp, and unfortunately that’s resulted in injuries and even death last year.”

RFD said the fires are caused by propane tanks, butane burners, and wood fires which are used to keep warm and for cooking. Battalion Chief Erlach said 80 percent of their calls happen along the Truckee River, which can delay their response time.

“So even with the river path running along the river, it doesn’t run on both sides, so that creates issues for us getting access to those fires.”

The City of Reno said COVID-19 has made it challenging for the unsheltered population during the winter and illegal campfires are a serious danger to the community.

Officials said resources are available, such as the emergency shelter on E. 4th Street which is fully-heated during evenings and warming areas with day-use facilities.

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