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Concerns raised about Colville Street camp
Homeless camp causes concern.jpg
Pictured is what remained after a homeless encampment exploded in July 2020. That area is continuing to create concerns. - photo by Lisa Hobbs

A homeless camp in McMinnville is creating public concern for health and safety. 

“It’s really a health hazard and a safety hazard. I think it’s an environmental hazard, also. There are tents there. There are makeshift tents. There are propane tanks,” said Commissioner Scott Kelly, who addressed members of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen recently. 

The encampment he referenced is located under a bridge on Colville Street. It lies between East End Drive and Market Street, in between Warren County Farmers Market and Beersheba Heights Tower. That bridge is used as shelter for homeless individuals. 

In July 2020, an explosion and ensuing fire under a bridge rocked downtown McMinnville. Residents reported feeling the earth shake, a “billow of thick, black smoke” coming out from under the bridge and a heavy smell of propane. 

“It might have been,” said McMinnville Fire Department Chief Kendall Mayfield, when asked about the possibility of a propane tank explosion causing the fire. “What we found was a bunch of loose clothes on fire, a burnt mattress and other items. We may never know exactly what caused the fire.”

No injuries were reported. 

Kelly said he and two other men toured the encampment Tuesday morning. He described deplorable conditions under the bridge.

“There’s trash and garbage piled everywhere, even on the tracks. There is debris on the tracks, which is a safety issue for the train. I wanted to make you aware of it, and I’d like to know if there’s a plan to do something.”

Mayor Ryle Chastain stated his intent to meet with city administrator Nolan Ming and Public Works Department director Frank Southard regarding what can be done to clean up the area and alleviate concerns.