DENVER (KDVR) — The Denver Fire Department is responding to a higher number of calls at homeless encampments than ever before, according to a spokesperson.
Capt. Greg Pixley says they are also finding more potentially dangerous substances at the camps, like propane and gasoline.
So far this year, DFD has responded to 536 calls in and around homeless camps, acquired 15,000 pounds of propane and 462 gallons of gasoline.
“We’re responding on about two fires a day to these areas around these encampments and that’s dangerous. That’s nothing we’ve seen before,” Pixley said.
Pixley says as the homeless population grows in Denver, so does the risk for fires at these sites. He says unhoused individuals will use propane to heat their spaces through the winter and to cook.
“When we have individuals that are donating propane to the people that are living on the street, it just compounds the problem and it increases the amount of fuels that we work to dispose of when they are left in an unsafe situation,” Pixley said.
Advocates say there are safer ways to help the unhoused community stay warm this season.
LynnAnn Huizingh, executive director at Severe Weather Shelter Network, recommends giving winter-weight sleeping bags and tarps.
Huizingh also suggests supporting local shelters and donating items like winter clothes, wool socks, hats and gloves. She said gift cards to fast food restaurants can also help.
“That’s providing a meal for them, an opportunity to get out of the cold for a while and it benefits them in a better way than giving them something that actually could harm not just them, but other people that are in the community with them,” Huizingh said.