A selective clean-up to address safety concerns took place at the homeless camp on Gladys Avenue on Monday, following a fire on Sunday night.
The fire broke out around 8 p.m. in a “storage area about 30 feet by 40 feet,” according to assistant fire chief Craig Bird.
No one was injured, but two or three people left the camp and went to the Salvation Army, said Bird. He said the cause of the fire is currently unknown, but was suppressed quickly as the fire hall is close to the camp.
Mayor Henry Braun said Monday that following an inspection by the fire chief, there would be a clean-up of the site to ensure safety due to the amount of material located around the area, including combustible items.
The camp on Gladys Avenue was the site of a fire in December 2014.
The tents went up at the site in late December 2013, after the city was granted a court injunction to remove a homeless protest camp in Jubilee Park.
The camp will not be removed. Braun said the city considers it a protest camp.
“Our council has made a decision that until this court case is heard that we’re not going to dismantle this site.”
The city is currently involved in a court action regarding its bylaws against camping in city parks. The BC/Yukon Drug War Survivors, an advocacy group, and non-profit group Pivot Legal Society, have argued the bylaws are unconstitutional and criminalize the homeless. The issue will go to trial in June.
Despite the camp remaining, Braun said the fire chief said there were some “life-safety” issues, and it was necessary to do a selective clean-up. He said he was concerned before the first fire and remains very concerned about safety. Braun pointed to propane tanks visible in the camp, and said they could endanger those living there and bystanders. The clean-up is about “respectful risk management,” he said.
Braun said the city contacted local service providers and community resource agencies to provide services if needed.
He said the courts will eventually make a decision on the case.
“There is going to be an end and we’re getting closer to the end, I think. In the meantime, I want to do whatever I can to find shelter for people.”
He said in talking with recovery homes, there is room available, but they have to build bridges to help people to get there.