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Anchorage

Fire erupts at homeless camp near Ben Boeke Ice Arena

Security ambassadors from the Sullivan Arena and Ben Boeke emergency homeless shelter respond to a fire at a homeless camp in the nearby Chester Creek Greenbelt on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

A dozen firefighters responded to a fire at a homeless camp late Friday afternoon near the Chester Creek Sports Complex, Anchorage Fire Department Chief Jodie Hettrick said.

No one was injured.

The complex is home to Sullivan Arena and the Ben Boeke Ice Arena on Gambell Street, which the city last month converted from sports and entertainment venues to mass shelters for people experiencing homelessness. The move came after COVID-19 made its way to Alaska and officials decided to decompress overcrowded shelters at Brother Francis and Bean’s Cafe, giving clients more room to spread out during the pandemic and lessen their chances of becoming infected.

An Anchorage police officer interviews a witness to a fire at a homeless camp in the Chester Creek Greenbelt on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN)
Anchorage police respond to a fire at a homeless camp in the Chester Creek Greenbelt on Friday, April 17, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Explosions were heard as the fire grew in size. Firefighters got the call at 4:09 p.m. and extinguished it a short time later, Hettrick said. As of late afternoon, crews were continuing to do mop up.

The fire was about 20 feet by 20 feet.

Had ground conditions been drier, the blaze could have erupted into a wildland fire of some size, according to the fire chief.

The Anchorage Fire Department responds to about one or two fires at homeless camps per week throughout the year, Hettrick said.

Security ambassadors from the Sullivan Arena and Ben Boeke emergency homeless shelter direct a client away from an active fire at a homeless camp in the nearby Chester Creek Greenbelt on Friday, April 17, 2020. The client said that she had been staying at the shelter and was concerned for her friends. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

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