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No victim found following fire at homeless camp in downtown Louisville

The fire was reported in the 1000 block of South Brook Street around 7:50 a.m. Thursday,...
The fire was reported in the 1000 block of South Brook Street around 7:50 a.m. Thursday, according to MetroSafe.
Updated: Jan. 31, 2019 at 6:35 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – Fire crews worked to put out flames at a homeless camp in downtown Louisville.

The fire was reported in the 1000 block of South Brook Street around 7:50 a.m. Thursday, according to MetroSafe.

When firefighters arrived they found a working fire under the overpass.

Louisville Fire Department Major Bobby Cooper said the flames were ignited by a sterno can and appeared to spread to combustibles in the area, including a propane tank.

The camp after the fire was extinguished.
The camp after the fire was extinguished.(WAVE 3 News)

“It's very risky and it's very dangerous, but it's either life or death,” Paul Stensrud, with Jesus Cares Exit 0 said. “You are either going to freeze to death or stay warm.”

Stensrud does outreach and often brings sternos and propane tanks to camps for cooking and a source of heat.

“The first thing that goes through my mind is, ‘I delivered propane to their place. What just happened?’” Stensrud said.

Stensrud added outreach includes education on fire safety.

“If these propane tanks were actually filled with propane these could have been projectile,” Stensrud said. “That could have been shooting all over the place here.”

He also said he’s seeing more camps near residential areas, including behind houses on Brook Street. People there are not using low barrier shelters or white flag nights.

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith said she is proud of the space the low barrier shelters have created but acknowledges more can be done. But she won’t force anyone to come inside.

“I accept the reality of what life is and to embrace and be respectful of everyone’s rights,” Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith said.

Sexton Smith said she is interested in designated urban camping areas. Until then, Stensrud said he predicts camps popping up in more locations.

“We shove them out with 21-day notice and then you label it ‘no trespassing,’ where do you expect them to go?” Stensrud asked.

No one was hurt in Thursday’s fire but nearby residents were concerned with damage the fire could have caused to the overpass. KYTC inspected the structure and did not find any damage.

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