Portion of fires in Contra Costa County started near homeless encampments

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PITTSBURG (KRON) — There’s rampant homelessness in Contra Costa County and according to fire officials, homeless encampments may be part of the cause for several fires this year. 

Windy, warm and dry conditions, combined with high vegetative growth are proving to be an extremely dangerous mix for the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

“It’s definitely an evolving fire season,” said Steve Hill with the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. 

Hill says the next few months could potentially be historically destructive.

Contra Costa Health Services says the county’s homeless population has increased 43 percent in the past two years.

Just this past Sunday, a grass fire at Elite Roofing Supply on Piedmont Way in Pittsburg started at a homeless encampment nearby.

Hill says, so far this year, of the fires his crews have battled, some 40 percent of them have either started at or near homeless encampments.

Hill says there are a number of programs in Contra Costa County specifically addressing homeless challenges. 

The fire department is working to do its part to mitigate the fire risk presented by homeless encampments, Hill says. 

He is especially concerned because he says, unlike in the past when the big fires happened along ridgelines and in the hills, the fires crews are battling these days are mostly in the flat lands where the homeless live.

Health services says double the amount homeless don’t use shelters compared to the number of who do.

“We’ve seen dramatic changes in the intensity of the fires we’re seeing and the number of fires. The start of the fire season much earlier, running much later into the year,” Hill said. 

Do your part by not discarding lit tobacco products on the side of roads and create fire breaks on your property in case fire fighters find themselves in your neighborhood.

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