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Homeless camp explodes
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Shown is what remains of what was a homeless camp in downtown McMinnville. The area was engulfed in flames after an explosion on Monday.

An explosion and ensuing fire under a bridge rocked downtown McMinnville on Monday.

“I heard a loud boom,” said Therese Hudson, a resident of East End Drive. “I heard it and felt it. It shook the windows. I went out the back door and could see fire and a billow of thick, black smoke coming out from under the bridge and going over the trees. It smelled like propane. I called 911.”

The bridge is located on Colville Street and lies between East End Drive and Market Street, in between Warren County Farmers Market and Beersheba Heights Tower. That bridge is also used as shelter for several homeless individuals. 

“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.”

According to McMinnville Police Department, this makes the fourth known gathering spot for homeless people in the community.

Firefighters reported hearing the explosion from Fire Station 1, located on East Main Street.

After firefighters extinguished the blaze, a search of the area was conducted by McMinnville Police Department. No individuals could be found, but the nearby resident said she sees them frequently.

“They walk back and forth,” said Hudson, when asked about the homeless individuals. “They’ll walk down the street and a little while later, they come back and go back under the bridge. I see them coming and going all the time. I don’t know how many there are. It makes me a little nervous sometimes, to be completely honest.”