A fire quickly spread in a homeless encampment Sunday afternoon along Chester Creek in Anchorage, burning several tents. No injuries were reported, fire officials said. A plume of smoke was visible across the city, and the fire drew response from emergency services and attention from nearby residents.
Firefighters responded just after 4 p.m. to the greenbelt between the Anchorage Football Stadium and the Chester Creek Trail, said Deputy Chief Alex Boyd. Seven emergency crews responded. Firefighters brought the flames under control in about 15 minutes, Boyd said.
Fire Capt. Josh Novinska said the cause of the fire hadn’t been determined. He said it burned an area about 30 foot by 30 feet, with flames 30 to 40 feet into the trees.
“We had several tents — probably four or five tents — that burned,” Novinska said.
Robert Hoffman, who lives in the area, said he heard a loud rushing noise in the afternoon, got out of his tent and saw the flames. He and his girlfriend evacuated, he said.
Boyd said that while the cause of the fire is still under investigation, “it was noted that there were numerous heating materials and improperly used heating devices in the area.”
Novinska said the fire produced popping noises, likely caused by campstove propane tanks.
Fires at homeless campsites have been becoming more common, Novinska said.
“As we approach this time of year and stuff gets drier, we have the possibility of the spread throughout the forest. There’s a lot of encampments throughout this greenbelt that we come to quite often,” Novinska said.
“Once the snowpack hits, we’ll get fewer and fewer of these instances, because we’ll have hopefully a homeless shelter for these people to funnel into. So they’ll decrease in the wintertime and they’ll start back up next summer.”