Homeless camp fires causing problems for firefighters and neighbors

RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Temperatures are dropping and it's causing problems for residents and firefighters in Reno. The Reno Fire Department reports that crews are responding to up to two calls per day of homeless camp fires.

The department says these types of calls deplete resources and take a huge toll on firefighters.

"I can't give you a dollar value but the time, the man power is significant and it takes those resources away from other parts of my city that need protection," Battalion Chief Mike Pilcher says.

A homeless camp fire broke out the evening of October 11, 2019 near McCarran Boulevard and 4th Street, sending neighbors nearby into a panic.

"Between the time that people had realized that maybe something had happened here across the river, we had a sixty foot diameter fire with flames 30 feet in the air," Doug Reimer, a neighbor, says.

The camp was located between the railroad tracks and the Truckee River, making it difficult for crews to access.

"We don't lay hose lines across a river so we had to lay them across the railroad tracks so the incident commander has to contact the railroad and confirm we've shut down rail traffic before we could even attempt to attack this fire, that's a time delay for us," Pilcher says.

Pilcher says the best thing people can do when these things happen is to call 911.

"Don't rush into a scene like this with your garden hose. Stay back and call 911 because we have the protective equipment, because you may encounter some type of bio-hazard you weren't expecting and we don't want that for you," he says.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Copyright KOLO-TV 2019