A growing number of homeless camps in the Vernon area are causing concern. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star file)

Second homeless camp fire sparked in North Okanagan

Growing encampment near Swan Lake a concern

A second Vernon homeless camp went up in flames Tuesday evening.

BX-Swan Lake crews were again called out to the shores of the lake to extinguish a blaze around 7:30 p.m. May 12. This is the second fire in three weeks at the new encampment area, which is not visible from Highway 97, but hidden between Swan Lake and the railroad tracks near the weigh scales.

“It was pretty well about 100 feet north of where the other one was,” said Fire Chief Bill Wacey.

READ MORE: Vernon homeless camp destroyed by fire

Crews were able to extinguish the blaze, which was a tent of some sort.

“There’s not much left of it,” said Wacey, who was told one person was seen running away.

“It was kind of a suspicious fire but no one would fess up to anything.”

He suspects that those living in the area had a dispute.

“Usually what happens is they are scrapping amongst themselves. Someone takes the best camping spot and someone burns them out.”

The encampment is new to the area and growing.

“There’s a large colony all the way out by the lake now,” said Wacey, estimating eight to 12 people living in the area. “I’ve seen four or five different camps around there but they come and go also.”

The land is part of the protected Swan Lake wildlife reserve but is a relatively new spot for those without a fixed address.

“It’s expanded because it wasn’t like that a few weeks ago,” said Wacey.

Firefighters were also cautious attending the scene, not knowing what kind of items were in the area and could potentially explode.

“There’s a lot of stuff. It’s become the new collection spot I think,” said Wacey, noting several shopping carts are usually parked next to the highway near the trail entrance.

Wacey has also had some complaints from Larkspur Road residents about a camp in the nearby dog park.

“There’s another one in BX Park up in the trees,” he said, adding that although some efforts were made to remove it at the end of April, it is still there.

READ MORE: Camp booted from BX Dog Park in Vernon

READ MORE: COVID-19: Vernon emergency shelter first to add sleeping pods


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

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