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Moccasin Flats fire destroys structure

Homeless encampment east of downtown was the scene of five structure fires last summer

A noon-hour fire Tuesday at the Moccasin Flats encampment on Lower Patricia sent clouds of black smoke and flames high into the air.

By the time firefighters arrived the temporary structure and the possessions inside had been destroyed.

There were no injuries.

The encampment on the eastern edge of downtown Prince George was mostly deserted when the fire was first reported.

It took about 10 minutes for one fireman using a single hose to extinguish the blaze, the first this calendar year at Moccasin Flats.

Last summer, there were five fires at the camp within a five-week period, including one that involved a more permanent structure that burned for nearly an hour. The last reported fire at a Prince George encampment was on Nov. 19 at Millennium Park along First Avenue.

“For sure, there’s been a few here,” said Prince George Fire Rescue deputy chief Bryan Burleigh. “Any time we respond to an incident we come to mitigate it and we treat them all the same. At the end of the day it’s somebody’s possessions and somebody’s livelihood and we provide a level of service equal for everyone in the community.”

Burleigh said firefighters take precautions when approaching any encampment fire, knowing the residents are likely using propane bottles to heat their places. The structures are often covered with plastic tarps that emit noxious substances when they burn.

“It’s no different than any residence we go to, there’s hazards of unknowns there, so we have training and awareness to mitigate those and cool the cylinders as soon as we can,” Burleigh said. “It’s just one of the inherent hazards of the job we provide.”