Two people were found dead in tents over the weekend that were on fire or destroyed by fire – one in Portland and a second in Sanford, police said.

Authorities stopped short of saying the victims were homeless, cautioning that more details about them would become known following autopsies by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. Neither of their identities had been confirmed as of Sunday night.

The man who died in Sanford was found Saturday in a makeshift tent in a wooded area near 1 Eagle Drive.

The person in Portland was found inside a burning tent early Sunday near the 100 block of Marginal Way. Police did not release that person’s gender.

The Portland victim was discovered by a police officer who spotted what he thought was a campfire along the northbound lane of Interstate 295, interim Assistant Police Chief Robert Martin said in an email. The officer located the campsite and saw a body inside a tent that was on fire. The Portland Fire Department extinguished the fire and determined that the person was dead, Martin said.

A park and ride lot nearby had been the site of a large homeless encampment – totaling more than 120 tents – until it was cleared Nov. 1 by state officials. People had been camping there for about six months. In August, the state blocked off half of the lot so commuters could continue to park on one side while campers occupied the other. But citing safety concerns and the need to maintain the parking lot during the winter months, state transportation officials had it cleared.


The Portland death also comes less than a week after the City Council rejected a proposal to allow public camping through April – a move that would have effectively ended encampment sweeps during the winter. Councilors listened to four hours of passionate public comment on the issue before taking a vote.

The death in Sanford was discovered Saturday around 10:30 a.m., when firefighters responded to a fire in a wooded area near 1 Eagle Drive. The remains of a man were found in a makeshift tent that was destroyed by fire, according to Shannon Moss of the Maine Department of Public Safety.

Both Martin and Moss said the two deaths were not related.

The number of people trying to live in tents and keep warm during sub-freezing temperatures “has been a concern of the Portland fire chief,” Martin said. “Tents are full of combustible materials and propane tanks for heating food preparation, or are being used near tents which creates a potentially dangerous situation.”

Portland fire Chief Keith Gautreau did not return a message seeking comment Sunday.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted to temporarily add 50 beds to the Homeless Services Center in the city’s Riverton neighborhood in an effort to get more people into shelter before the winter.

Portland police are urging anyone who has information that might assist their investigation to call them at 207-874-8575. To leave a message on the department’s Crime Tip Line, call 207-874-8584, or text the keyword “PPDME” and the message to 847411.

Staff Writer Dennis Hoey contributed to this story.

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