McMinnville firefighters responded to a large fire at a homeless encampment Thanksgiving morning.
The fire call went out at 11 a.m., with flames and heavy black smoke coming from the wooded area behind Arms Apartments. The smoke was visible for miles.
It is unknown how many individuals reside at the homeless camp. There are a number of tents scattered around the area. The structure that burned was fairly large, made out of wooden pallets, and covered in tarps.
“If we hadn’t gotten there when we did, that whole wooded area would have been engulfed,” said Fire Chief Kendall Mayfield. “We’ve had a few dry days up to that point and it’s winter, so dry leaves were everywhere. The fire had already consumed the structure and had spread to the surrounding trees.”
Firefighters were on scene for two hours and used approximately 600 feet of water hose to reach the blaze.
“We have no idea how the fire started,” said Mayfield. “It could have been them trying to keep warm. It could have been accidentally or intentionally set by someone. We probably will never know.”
When questioned about the wooden structure, Mayfield added that the individuals living there had built what appeared to be a nice camp.
“It was a pretty nice camp that they had built. The structure was made out of wood. They had built a fence around it using small trees they cut down. I assume the fence was to keep out animals.”
Normal procedure with structure fires is to call in the American Red Cross to assist the family in finding immediate shelter, if necessary.
“I don’t know if we have any organizations that can assist them,” said Mayfield. “I can call the American Red Cross, but I’m unsure if there’s anything they can do.”
No injuries were reported.