Readers Respond to the Increase in Fires That Begin at Homeless Camps

“It is absolutely unacceptable that people have to live this way, despite millions budgeted that is supposed to alleviate this human tragedy.”

Last week’s cover story considered the steep increase in fires started in or near homeless camps, which now account for nearly half the blazes that firefighters respond to in Portland (“Camp Fires Everywhere,” WW, Nov. 2). Portland Fire & Rescue is responding to an average of six such fires a day—double the number just three years ago. Unhoused people described losing all their belongings and friends dying in the flames—which are often sparked by warming devices or the preparation of smoked drugs. Here’s what our readers had to say:

Stephen Judkins, via Twitter: “I’m not sure how best to articulate it, but one of the most frustrating things about the Portland discourse is how many fellow left-leaning people have focused on how we should tolerate this awful situation instead of ameliorating it.”

JohnQPublicthe3rd, via wweek.com: “I have a fire pit in my backyard, surrounded by concrete. The fire department was called when we had a fire (didn’t realize there was a burn ban). They put out the fire and said if it happens again, we might be fined…guess only the housed have to follow rules these days or pay fines. Wheeler’s houseless campuses would solve this problem. People would have access to warming areas and there would be kitchens. Yet the homeless industrial complex keeps equating them to internment camps. Something has to change.”

Michael Brand, via wweek.com: “This shit is starting to destabilize the entire city. It is absolutely unacceptable that people have to live this way, despite millions budgeted that is supposed to alleviate this human tragedy. In the meantime, homeowners and small-business people are forced to deal with the fallout of government inaction.

“Be it city, county, state or federal level, our leaders are grossly incompetent and impotent.”

Harold Metzger, via Facebook: “Just wait until Forest Park or the Hoyt Arboretum go up in flames during a dry spell. There needs to be zero tolerance toward camping in those parks.”

CosmosMom, via Twitter: “Look at the replies to see what kind of reader you are attracting with your fear porn.”

Mark F, via wweek.com: “Do-nothing advocates are solely responsible for homeless deaths by fire and traffic accidents. It’s appalling that they continue to think unsanctioned camping near freeways and in fire-prone areas is the solution while we wait for 5,000 affordable housing units to be built. We need grown-ups to take charge of this problem, drown out the noise from the vocal advocates, and do something.”

Jessica Foster, via Facebook: “You know what would prevent this? Not having a houseless population. You know what would make that happen? Sufficiently funded and supported social programs and ending the stigma that the houseless are subhuman.

“Don’t forget you have more in common with the homeless than you do with the wealthy. How many missed paychecks would it take for you to be forced to join one of these camps for safety?”

BurgerBill56, via wweek.com: “This reminds me of a parable, something about incompetent leadership, a violin, and a city on fire?…It’ll come to me…”

LETTERS to the editor must include the author’s street address and phone number for verification. Letters must be 250 or fewer words. Submit to: PO Box 10770, Portland OR, 97296 Email: mzusman@wweek.com