A fire broke out at the sanctioned homeless camp under the I-580 underpass near 36th and Magnolia/Peralta this evening. A dark plume of smoke could be seen rising from the area at about 8:20 p.m. followed by the wail of sirens. [Update:] The East Bay Times is reporting that there were no injuries or casualties according to Oakland Fire battalion chief Erik Logan.
— The E’ville Eye News (@TheEvilleEye) May 2, 2017
The site is that of the “Compassionate Communities” pilot program spearheaded by Oakland D3 Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney. We previously spotlighted the efforts of the program as part of our contribution to The SF Homeless Project. The encampment was scheduled to be dismantled on April 1st and City officials were scouting a more permanent location under I-580 near Mandela Parkway and 34th. Caltrans was reportedly asking $20K per month to lease the space causing a breakdown in negotiations.
A Chronicle report later explained the difficulty placing residents of the site in shelters noting a high rate of Heroin addiction among the occupants. The Chronicle also exposed a recent rash of fires at homeless camps after an April 13 fire that the Fire Chief blamed on a cooking fire. Homeless encampments are not regulated under the California fire code according to Oakland city administrator’s office spokeswoman Karen Boyd.
— Orion Willow Parrott (@OrionParrott) May 2, 2017
After the blaze has been contained, Twitter reports estimated that half of the tents had been destroyed by the fire.
Destruction at Oakland homeless camp under 580 at Peralta tonight pic.twitter.com/BBnR2CV2al
— Scott Morris (@OakMorr) May 2, 2017
An updated piece by The Chronicle notes that it s suspected the fire was “set by a woman who had argued with her boyfriend” and that their were plans by The City of Oakland to clear the camp out by Friday. “We have to,” noted Assistant City Administrator Joe DeVries. “After what happened, it’s apparent that we have serious safety issues there.”
Since this is breaking news, we will update this post as new information becomes available.
Feature Image: @tom_eberhard via Twitter