Homeless Encampment Fire Danger a Concern in Oakland

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will give her State of the City address on Friday. Her office confirms solving homelessness will be the city's top priority.

There are numerous issues to address and NBC Bay Area has found new information about a dangerous one -- homeless encampment fires.

The Red Cross, which assists homeless fire victims, said Oakland is by far the city with the most incidents.

There are a lot of homeless encampments in Oakland. The tents and homemade structures are often jammed together.

Gabe Arocha lives in his car on the fringe of an encampment. He works and is trying to save money for a home. He said he will not live in an actual encampment because the fire danger is too high.

"I've seen one mattress fire next to a bunch of tents," Arocha said. "And it could've really blown up to something bigger than that."

And it is a situation Oakland firefighters face often.

New figures from the fire department show in the past year there were 529 reports of encampment related fires, and 232 confirmed by fire engines at the scene.

It works out to about two responses to an encampment fire every three days.

The Alameda County Homeless Action Center points out the high number indicates the need for the city to create more safe spaces for the homeless because they are in a desperate situation.

The center also said Oakland has been working toward finding solutions and is encouraged the mayor is making homelessness a top priority.

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