Hanford firefighters said they’re seeing an increase in fires at homeless encampments. There have been about a dozen in the last month, and it’s putting a strain on resources.
“This past year it’s safe to say these fires have increased, and we believe it’s due to the large population of homeless coming in to the city of Hanford,” Capt. David Sumaya of the Hanford Fire Department said Monday.
Employees who work around one that broke out on Tuesday near Glendale Avenue and 12th Avenue said they started noticing the camp about five months ago. Francisco Nunez was working nearby when the fire broke out.
“We just heard someone come in tell us that there was a fire and we saw one (of the people who lives in the camp) come in and tell us about it. She was crying a little bit,” he said. “We have little small (fires) every now and again where you see the fire department coming in.”
Employees said campers, and an occasional fire, generally don’t cause any problems for business. But the same can’t be said for everyone. Each call for fires at a homeless camp takes valuable resources.
“We’re so understaffed right now. We have two engines and one patrol that protects the city 24/7,” Sumaya said.
A total of nine firefighters serve more than 55,000 people around the clock. A call to an encampment fire, even if it turns out to be something like a small cooking fire, takes an engine out of service.
Sumaya said it puts a strain on the department. He said they’re handling it, but the problem is getting worse and eventually city leaders will have to do something to combat it.