San Francisco homeless encampment fire burns tents, cars on Monday morning

Residents and firefighters in San Francisco are frustrated with an increasing number of fires stemming from homeless encampments.

Just before 1:30 Monday morning, cameras picked up the start of this encampment fire near Julian Avenue and 14th Street. You can see a figure next to a tent. Moments later you can see a small area light up, and then flash over to fully engulf the tent. Firefighters arrived shortly after to battle back the flames. 

"Our units arrived on scene and witnessed the encampment on fire with radiating heat threatening the vehicles nearby.

No injuries were reported. Arson investigators are looking into the cause of the fire. 

Subsequently, seven vehicles were burned along with a scooter and the encampment itself," said Lt. Mariano Elias San Francisco Fire Department.

This is far from the first fire on this block. Desiree Barrera says she was working nearby just last Friday when she heard noises, and saw people standing near her car with cameras out, and she knew something was wrong. She herself captured the moment a nearby tent flared up and began burning her car. "I came outside to see what was going on, and I seen huge smoke and flames and walked down a little bit more to see my car catching on fire," Barrera.

The common thread: encampments along the street where these fires broke out. Barrera says she and neighbors nearby have been warning officials for weeks of open fires in the area. She says it's frustrating that her car burned even after she raised her concerns. "So, what we've been noticing the past two months is fires on the sidewalk," said Barrera. "So, what's happening is they'll light anything on fire just to get a fire going, and they're doing it on the sidewalk. So, they're doing it on this block and they're doing it behind the apartment building and the school." 

Firefighters confirm they're seeing more fires like these. "Yeah, unfortunately we are seeing an increase in these encampment fires," Lt. Elias.

The fires are caused by everything from propane tanks to cook fires. Safety experts worry that fires at encampments will spread to nearby cars or to nearby buildings which makes the fire far more dangerous. "We have seen an increase in fire from encampments along with building fires because they're next to them," said Lt. Elias.

SEE ALSO: Attorneys for homeless coalition say city workers inadequately trained on clearing encampments

Officials say there's little they can do when it comes to encampments, firefighters say they can't clear encampments, the police say unless there's some reason to arrest someone, they can't do anything either. But the city says if there's a clear danger, like an open fire, officials can step in, they're encouraging people to report any dangerous situations.

The fire department says the best advice they have for drivers is to look around the area where you park and do an assessment if it's a safe place to park.

Bay City News contributed to this report.