Explosion, fire destroy tent at homeless encampment west of Ann Arbor
A resident of Camp Take Notice lost most of his belongings Tuesday morning after a small propane tank exploded in his tent, causing a fire that destroyed it, according to fire officials.
Scio Township Fire Department Chief Carl Ferch said firefighters were dispatched at 7:45 a.m. Tuesday to the homeless encampment, located west of Ann Arbor off Wagner Road between Jackson and Elizabeth roads. A large outside fire had been reported before a camper called dispatchers and notified them a small propane tank had exploded, Ferch said.
The man was not at the camp when the fire began and no one was injured, Ferch said. Firefighters used shovels and fire extinguishers to put out the blaze after traversing the trail that leads from Wagner Road down to the camp.
“That’s the only way in and they were probably 700 to 800 feet off of Wagner Road,” he said. “We used shovels and extinguishers because it was too far to stretch (fire hoses).”
Camp Take Notice is a tent city set up for people who would otherwise be homeless. It’s currently on Michigan Department of Transportation land and there has been some debate regarding whether the department will allow the camp to remain on the land.
Brian Durrance, a board member for the Michigan Itinerant Shelter System-Interdependent Out of Necessity (MISSION), said fire department crews arrived shortly after being notified and managed to put the fire out before the fire spread to any other part of the camp.
“A camper called 911 and they (firefighters) were on the scene very quickly,” he said.
The Scio Township Fire Department had to close off southbound Wagner Road for a period of time Tuesday morning in order to get to the fire, according to Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Derrick Jackson. Deputies were in the area to help move traffic, he said.
The Dexter Area Fire Department provided assistance to Scio Township firefighters, Jackson said.
The four-person tent was about 12 feet by 12 feet. Jackson said several trees in the area were charred and scorched.
“It appeared to be a larger tent and had quite a bit of bedding, clothes (and other items),” Jackson said.
The investigation into the fire is continuing, Ferch said.