More security coming to Maple Ridge homeless camp after string of fires
More police and more security is coming to a homeless camp in Maple Ridge where three fires broke out in as many days this week.
In a news release sent out Friday evening, the city of Maple Ridge says they are doubling the security presence around the camp known as Anita Place "for the foreseeable future to address neighborhood and site safety."
The city urged people living in the camp to take advantage of a bus that comes to the site to take people to shelters.
"I assure you that Council has the same concerns as the community," said Mayor Mike Morden in a release. "What’s been taking place at the camp is untenable and unacceptable for the camp residents, the people in the neighbourhood and first responders. We will continue our work to deal with this problem."
The release comes after firefighters responded to calls of a fire at the homeless camp on 118 Avenue at 2 a.m. Friday.
Neighbours of the camp known as Anita Place reported hearing multiple explosions and seeing large flames.
Once the flames had been extinguished, firefighters were seen searching through debris and removing propane tanks. This is the third fire to hit this camp in as many days. There has been no official comment as to the cause of the fire or if anyone was hurt.
"People keep bringing them heaters, people keep bringing them propane tanks. They know they're not supposed to have them," neighbour Ramona Stimpfl told CTV the day before, when another fire tore through the camp.
Stimpfl said she's been woken up night after night, she's fearful and she wants a solution.
"It's been a pretty stressful few days… The biggest concern I have is exactly what just happened, is that there's going to be more fires. These people just have to go. There are shelters available, there's cold bed shelters, there are places that they can go that I think would be a lot safer than being out in the elements," she said
The cause of the fire is still unknown and officials say there are no reports of any injuries.
Those who call Anita Place home are frustrated and upset by the frequent fires.
Stephen McKercher, a resident of the camp, says he's seen several fires in his 1 ½ years living at the camp, and that security often doesn't intervene.
"It's a bit concerning, and really, we just kind of… just survive, really. That's all we do," he said.
Another resident, Patrick Desroche, said he's lived in the camp about two months.
"It’s no worse than anywhere else. I mean, you put a bunch of people together and in poverty and its hard, right? We’re trying to survive."
He said with the cold temperatures, people living in the camp are doing what they can to stay warm. Even those who have cellphones have nowhere to charge them, so if a fire does break out, they can't call for help.
The local shelter holds just a few people, he said, but there are at least 60 living in the camp. It fills up fast, and many are left in tents on chilly nights.
"It's pretty hard when you got to worry about where you're going to eat next, or where you're sleeping, or now we're worried about if we're going to be f--king burned," Desroche said.
"It's really concerning. This is my first time being homeless."
The fires come after the city removed flammable items as part of a court-ordered injunction, one Pivot Legal Society is appealing. The group calls it heavy-handed.
"In our opinion, it goes too far. Residents are being prevented from taking the steps they need to survive under these circumstances," lawyer Caitlin Shane said.
The city says it's going back to the Supreme Court to ask for more help to keep its employees safe, and to prevent them from being obstructed at the site.
"As we have seen over the last few days, this has created a dangerous situation for the people in the camp and surrounding neighbourhood. At the end of the day we want everyone to feel, and be, safe," said Morden.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber