December 7, 2022

Oakland spent practically $80,000 preventing fires at one homeless encampment on the Caltrans web site over the course of a 12 months, in keeping with a brand new report that highlights the affect such camps have on town and raises questions concerning the accountability of the transportation company.

Between October 2021 and October 2022, firefighters responded to 816 fires at Oakland camps throughout town, together with 63 fires on the big Wooden Road camp alone. The fires on the Wooden Road camp, which was once on vacant Caltrans land in West Oakland and later disbanded this fall, value town an estimated $78,441, in keeping with a report from the Oakland Fireplace Division. Town spent practically the identical quantity—roughly $77,196—to place out 62 fires on the edges of freeways operated by Caltrans that weren’t essentially related to homeless encampments.

Throughout this era, town spent greater than $1 million preventing camp fires, in keeping with hearth division estimates.

Metropolis Council members Sheng Tao and Carroll Fife requested a report following a sequence of fires on Caltrans land alongside I-580 this fall. The fireplace division unveiled it this week throughout a gathering of town’s finance committee.

For a number of board members, the report raised questions on what Caltrans needs to be doing to raised protect its property and cut back hearth hazards, and who ought to bear the monetary burden of recurring fires.

“Caltrans actual property is in a state of dangerous lack of upkeep daily, on a regular basis,” Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan stated. “Caltrans, we hereby inform you that your property is in a harmful state and you’ve got been negligent in not cleansing it up.”

Caltrans didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

Town council was alarmed by the scenario after a sequence of fires alongside I-580, together with one in September that unfold to 4 properties and displaced at the very least 10 individuals. At the least two fires have been brought on by arson. In one other incident, a automotive caught hearth and engulfed vegetation on a hillside off I-580 west close to the Seminary Avenue exit, requiring 70 firefighters and a number of other hours to deliver the hearth underneath management. Apparently, dense thickets within the space exacerbated the fires. There are camps for the homeless within the space, though none have been particularly linked to any of the freeway fires, hearth division spokesman Michael Hunt stated.

“It positively exhibits that even if we have now been there dozens of instances, there could not have been a transparent urgency or technique to mitigate the type of risks that induced firefighters to repeatedly go to the place,” Hunt stated of the report. “It additionally speaks to the frequency of homeless fires typically.”

Hunt recommended that quarterly hearth exercise experiences be submitted to town and embody Caltrans and different transportation businesses with a presence in Oakland, similar to BART, in discussions.

Because the variety of homeless individuals in Auckland skyrocketed and scattered camps of tents, caravans and makeshift shacks turned dwelling to extra individuals with nowhere to go, the danger of fires in these communities elevated. Tents, caravans, and wood homes constructed from pallets and different scraps might be extremely flammable, and are sometimes so shut collectively that when one rises, it ignites a number of others. Individuals dwelling in camps additionally usually use open fires for cooking and retaining heat.

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