April 7, 2013

Homeless man dies in Portland fire

The tragedy highlights the vulnerability of the city's homeless population, the fire chief says.

A homeless man was killed in a fire on West Commercial Street Saturday night.

The fire, one of several in Portland during the weekend, broke out along the railroad tracks just before midnight. Fire crews found the badly burned body of a man as they were extinguishing the blaze. The identity of the man is not yet available, said Nicole Clegg, Portland City Hall spokeswoman.

The fire destroyed a tent, personal belongings and scorched  a small area of woods. The Portland police and fire departments and the state Fire Marshal’s Office are investigating the cause of the fire and the man’s death.

Portland Fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said that the tragedy highlights the vulnerability of our homeless population. “The homeless place themselves in great risk when forced to use open flame for heating and lighting,” he said. He hopes to establish an outreach program to educate the homeless in fire-safety tips.

Earlier in the day about 20 firefighters were called to a woods fire at Evergreen Cemetery. The fire scorched several acres before it was extinguished.

At 5 p.m. Saturday, firefighters responded to 29 Grant St., where smoke was reported from a faulty furnace. Occupants of the three-story apartment building were evacuated for an hour due to high carbon monoxide levels.

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