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Fire breaks out again overnight at homeless camp in south Minneapolis

November 30, 2018

Another fire broke out early Friday at the homeless encampment in south Minneapolis, the second such incident in the last two weeks.

Six tents were destroyed but no one was hurt in the blaze, which started just before 1 a.m., said Minneapolis Assistant Fire Chief Bryan Tyner.

“It’s a good thing and it’s pretty lucky to have no injuries at that time of the morning,” Tyner said.

There were reports of propane cylinders exploding before firefighters arrived, but it’s unclear what caused the fire, officials said.

The camp at Hiawatha Avenue and 26th Street, where hundreds of homeless people have been living since late summer, will be at a constant fire risk throughout the winter as people light up propane heaters or rig improvised stoves to stay warm, Tyner said.

“We knew that this was probably going to happen, and it’s happening,” he said.

The fire risk, along with falling temperatures, has kept pressure on city, county and American Indian officials to relocate the tent encampment, which has become the home of nearly 200 adults and children.

A temporary shelter, planned for a nearby Red Lake Nation-owned site, is scheduled to open in mid-December. The Minneapolis City Council approved $1.5 million for the move.

The agencies are working as “quickly as possible” to open the shelter, said Mayor Jacob Frey.

“The encampment is not a safe option,” Frey said. “In the interim, the fire department will continue to regularly visit those living at the encampment to underscore how important it is to follow fire safety protocols.”

Fire officials found that an unattended propane heater caused the first fire at the camp, which burned down 10 tents on November 19. In that fire, one person was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Greg Stanley • 612-673-4882

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