Stanley Park tree fire at homeless camp near Teahouse

Fire crews spent a couple of hours Sunday morning fighting what was initially reported as a large tree fire near a homeless camp by the Teahouse in Vancouver's Stanley Park.

Firefighters say squatters lighting fires to keep warm this time of year are "a problem"

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      A fire at a homeless encampment in Vancouver's Stanley Park that spread to a 200-year old-growth cedar near the Teahouse restaurant kept firefighters busy Sunday morning.

      The fire broke out around 9:45 a.m. PT.

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      Homeless encampments a problem

      It was out before noon and the park was reopened to traffic, but Vancouver Batallion Fire Chief Dan Wilson said crews would be busy for several hours. He said the tree was hollowed out to about 10 metres up hiding embers that were difficult to extinguish and continued to rain down.

      Wilson said this is the worst season for fires in the park.

      "It's generally the fall season. Guys light them trying to get warm. It's a big problem," he said. "These happen all the time. Fortunately we put them out rather quickly. They're just little encampments. When they do get into the forest or into a tree then it's a different scenario."

      "Every year we have one or two of these tree fires."

      Wilson said there was no one in the encampment when fire crews arrived. He said it's generally not the squatters who report them, and as they tend to try and remain well hidden, it's often difficult to find their fires.

      When the fire first broke out, Vancouver police closed the park to traffic and were turning around and escorting out motorists caught inside.

      The closure did not affect the Stanley Park Causeway to the Lions Gate Bridge.

      With files from the CBC's Richard Zussman