FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – As temperatures continue to drop overnight, Fresno fire officials warn about the dangers of “warming” fires as those in the unhoused community try to find shelter.
Fire officials say you do not want to risk your life just to stay warm, if you need a place to stay head to your local shelter or warming center.
“We’ve seen homeless encampment fires, vacant buildings go up in flames and we’ve seen people killed as a result,” said Jonathan Lopez with Fresno Fire.
Lopez says they see more and more warming fires in the colder months of the year.
“When you have folks who are trying to keep themselves warm in these cold temps in encampments, those fires can be knocked over, then careless people can drop things into the fire that causes the fire to spread,” he added.
Lopez says not only is starting a fire dangerous for the person trying to stay warm but when firefighters respond, those resources are tied up from other areas in the city.
“When we’re responding to those kinds of calls were not available to respond to medical emergencies, other structure fires, vehicle accidents,” said Lopez.
“Influx greatly increases, like right now all the shelters are at capacity and so we can’t get people in,” said Sara Mirhadi with the Poverello House.
Mirhadi says they are trying their best to accommodate everyone on cold nights.
“I think people forget in Fresno that it’s almost harder in the cold than it is in the summertime because there’s almost like no escape so what we do here at Poverello house we open up our day room during the day where the heaters on,” she said.
During this time of year, she says they give out 150 blankets a week and make sure people get a hot meal and a hot shower.
“What we try to do is try to ease it any way we could through blankets, socks, and taking people to the warming centers,” she added.
But fire officials say if you can’t make it to a center and have to stay outside to bundle up, to prevent any cold-related injuries.
“We really hope that they would make use of any of the resources available for unhoused individuals here in the city, shelters, any means that they can use to get off the street,” said Lopez.