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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Camper trailer destroyed in fire at Camp Hope, displacing two

A basket of mums blooms among the tents at Camp Hope on Friday after fencing was installed around the east Spokane homeless encampment. Spokane County is planning to sue the Washington State Department of Transportation over the encampment.  (Kathy Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Firefighters extinguished a fire that destroyed a camper trailer and displaced two residents at Camp Hope on Tuesday afternoon, according to a release from the Spokane Fire Department.

A team of fire marshals was already at the homeless encampment for a regular walkthrough when the camp’s fire watch alerted them, said Julie Garcia, camp manager and director of Jewels Helping Hands. The fire marshals contacted dispatch about the fire, which was moving quickly from the trailer and extending to several tents and “large piles of combustibles and trash,” according to the department’s release.

The trailer, its contents and nearby possessions were completely destroyed, the department said. Two adults who lived in the trailer with a puppy were displaced and are being assisted by the Red Cross.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation. However, Garcia said the camper’s residents were using a type of fire for warmth that isn’t allowed.

Fire hazards are a constant risk at the camp, Garcia said.

“We don’t allow regular burning in anything except a burn barrel,” she said. “That was outside of the rules.”

The fire marshals and camp security evacuated the camp after the fire was reported and attempted to extinguish the fire using more than 10 fire extinguishers, the department said. The extinguishers were ineffective due to the size of the blaze.

Fire crews forced entry through the camp’s exterior fencing with mechanical saws. They rescued a puppy that had hidden beneath bedding on the floor of the burning trailer.

The damaged fence was repaired as of Tuesday evening, and the trailer was scheduled to be removed on Wednesday, Garcia said.

Both residents were employed and “very close to housing,” she said.

“Everything they owned was in that trailer,” she said. “Anyone who loses their home (knows) it’s a traumatic experience. It’s not just a camper. It’s everything these folks own.”

No one was injured in the fire, although the puppy received first-aid, the fire department said.

The camp has increased its number of fire watches with the winter weather forecasted this week, Garcia said. Camp residents can use two warming tents that are staffed, she said. Additionally, 400 pounds of blankets and 100 personal heaters have been donated to help with the cold, she said.

“We are doing everything we can to make sure these folks can get through the next few days,” she said.

The camp shrank by 7% this month, according to Washington Department of Transportation, which owns the property. There are 433 people living at the camp, down from 467 people on Nov. 4, the department said.