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‘It’s not the first and it won’t be the last’: Fire crews douse blaze on Kelowna’s Rail Trail

Those experiencing homelessness are building campfires for warmth off the Rail Trail
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Firefighters and RCMP on Rail Trail, Nov. 17. (Jordy Cunningham/ Capital News)

Fire crews once again responded to an abandoned campfire off the Rail Trail, Thursday afternoon.

The blaze was spotted at the bottom of Dilworth Mountain at about 12:30 p.m.

Both firefighters and RCMP attended the blaze which grew to be two feet by two feet.

“It’s not the first and it won’t be the last,” said a firefighter on scene.

Campfires on and near the Rail Trail are becoming more prevalent as the winter progresses, due to a lack of a cold weather shelter.

The Canadian Mental Health Association Kelowna opened a temporary shelter for four days during the first week of November, however, due to limited staffing capacity and other ongoing programs, it limits its ability to extend the temporary solution.

Bylaw services manager Kevin Mead told the Capital News in October that, homelessness in Kelowna has tripled since last year and additional resources are required.

Mead said that he has seen a “dramatic increase” in the number of people experiencing un-sheltered homelessness across the city, for reasons that are “beyond the municipality’s control.”

To help the un-housed, a new shelter has been opened on Bay Avenue, but due to a staffing shortage, it is only able to operate at half capacity.

This has led to those experiencing homelessness seeking heat sources through other means, such as campfires along the Rail Trail. Without access to shelter, people living along the Rail Trail encampment say that many are using candles, wood fires and propane heaters to stay warm and provide light in and around their tents.

READ MORE: 3 blazes in a week at Kelowna’s Tent City has residents calling for extinguishers

READ MORE: Needs increasing for Kelowna’s homeless with winter looming

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