Fire destroys Regina homeless encampment

The fire in Regina’s Heritage neighborhood was reported to Regina’s Fire and Protective Services at 5:41 p.m. No injuries have been reported. About 10 people occupied the encampment permanently while up to 30 would come and go. The fire destroyed empty tents and a garage. Today, the lot is strewn with tarps, shopping carts, luggage bags, clothes and blankets.

Wrecked tents, blankets and suitcases found at the scene, no reported injuries

Debris was scattered around in the aftermath of a fire that broke out on the 1800 block of Halifax Street, in Regina's Heritage neighborhood, on Tuesday night. (Regina Fire)

A fire broke out Tuesday night in a Regina encampment set up by people experiencing homelessness, destroying empty tents and a garage. 

The fire department got a report about a fire in the Heritage neighborhood, on the 1800 block of Halifax Street, at 5:41 p.m. CST. Firefighters were able to extinguish the fire in around eight minutes after arriving — but the encampment had been completely destroyed.

Regina Fire and Emergency Services deputy chief Gord Hewitt said firefighters performed a thorough search and no injuries have been reported.

"Our inspector did an initial overview last night and will be back out there today," Hewitt said.

The cause of the fire remains undetermined. There were four separate fires in Regina last night, which Hewitt said could cause delays in the investigation.

Regina firefighters searched through debris at the fire scene. (Rally Around Homelessness)

'It could have easily been a very different situation'

The encampment popped up early in the summer, according to Alysia Johnson, a volunteer with Rallying Around Homelessness.

She said the fire should be a warning that situations can escalate quickly in encampments.

"Thank God nobody got hurt, but it very easily could have been a very different situation and that's what's so scary to me," Johnson said. 

A sign "Everybody is OK!" is stuck on a tree in the darkness.
A sign at the scene of the Halifax Street fire says "Everbody is OK!" (Kevin O'Connor/CBC)

On Wednesday morning, the lot where the encampment was located was strewn with tarps, shopping carts, luggage bags, clothes and blankets. 

CBC spoke to a man who was sorting through debris looking for his belongings at the scene of the fire early Wednesday morning. He said he wasn't present when the fire broke out and was working on a place to stay.

Carmichael Outreach is a non-profit, based near the encampment, that provides services to people experiencing poverty and homelessness.

Carmichael volunteer co-ordinator Amanada Benesh said the charity was aware of 10 people occupying the encampment camp permanently overnight, and up to 30 people who would come and go.

"A space they utilized as a home, even though a tent is not a home, is gone and they have lost that," Benesh said.

Benesh said Carmichael is trying to support the people who lived in the encampment by trying to replace some of the items lost.

"We have a boutique where we provide free items, and those are items that'll keep them warm: boots, jackets and blankets," Benesh said. "As you can see out there, the area is frozen from the fire hoses wetting it and none of their items are good any more."

Multiple encampments throughout the city

In October, CBC spoke with Randy, whose last name CBC agreed not to use. Randy was living in the same 1800 block of Halifax St reet with a handful of other people in a small tent encampment.

Randy previously lived in Camp Hope, a tent-city in Pepsi Park (Core Park). He said the tent encampment was worse than Camp Hope, which had been heated and brought in many community donations.

"Here it's more rough," Randy said about the encampment.

Johnson said having a more centralized encampment — like Camp Hope — would be a safer option for people experiencing homelessness rather than having multiple encampments across the city.

"You're much more effectively able to deliver services," Johnson said. 

"You can keep an eye on things and give support in a way that is a bit more reliable and organized, but when everybody is scattered you lose a bit of that safety in numbers element."

The investigation is ongoing.

With files from Daniella Ponticelli