Why fires at California Bay Area’s largest homeless encampment are so tough to fight

  • Source: San Francisco Chronicle - Metered Site
  • Published: 08/25/2022 12:00 AM

When Oakland Fire Chief Reginald Freeman responded to a report of a fire at the Wood Street encampment in July, he first noticed the heavy, black smoke that had drifted into the air. The encampment had reported many fires in the months before, but this one was unusual — bringing traffic on the nearby highway to a standstill. Dozens of firefighters searched for a fire hydrant. Eventually one was found nearly 1,000 feet away from the fire. Under city code, fire hydrants should be within 500 feet of homes, but the encampment’s location isn’t meant to house people, so the hydrants are tough to reach. As firefighters doused the flames with water, propane canisters exploded, reminding Freeman of the time when a firefighter lost part of his jaw after a canister exploded at a different Wood Street fire.


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