EUGENE, Ore. -- With the homeless population in Lane County growing bigger and bigger, fire officials are sharing their concerns.
For one, more homeless people are moving to fire-prone areas like wheat fields.
And in April, there was a fire that started from an explosion under the Ferry Street Bridge where one woman suffered severe burns. In June, there were two fires at homeless camps in Washington-Jefferson Park where people were also injured.
One homeless individual in Eugene said a friend of his had severe burns on the back of her neck from an accidental fire, and he knew others who had accidents with their propane tanks.
Chief Chad Minter of the Lane County Fire Defense Board said this is a growing problem, especially for those living in camps or areas close to wheat fields.
He is also afraid to move equipment into burning fields because he's afraid of running over someone who could be living in the brush.
These fires are usually started by everyday activities such as cooking and smoking, Minter added.
"There are all kinds of starts, it's just a matter of like I said when you get that many people in one spot whether it be off Franlin or West 11th or all those kind of places, even here in Coburg off Mackenzie Drive, there's homeless camps along the river, and we worry about fires getting started, and not only the fire's starting but people not being able to evacuate or get away from the fire if it moves too fast," said Minter.
A month later, the risk of fire is even greater because of the extreme heat and dryness. For temporary residents like Shawn Cox, trouble could come quickly if fire breaks out.
"We try to stay away from them because it's really hot here lately and stuff and we sure do not want to start any fires by accident or anything. So we don't cook, you know, we just buy cold stuff and eat sandwiches and stuff like that and it works out really well for us," said Cox.
Whether a fire breaks out in a homeless camp and spreads to a field, or a grass fire spreads to a homeless camp, officials are very concerned it's a tragedy waiting to happen.