Explosion and fire at homeless camp in Winnipeg leaves one person dead

WINNIPEG — An explosion that erupted on Higgins Avenue Tuesday morning left a homeless camp engulfed in flames and one person dead.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service was called for reports of an explosion and fire at an encampment in the first 100 block of Higgins Avenue at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

“Upon arrival on (the) scene, crews found a temporary structure engulfed in smoke and flames,” the City of Winnipeg said in a news release.

One person was found dead after emergency crews extinguished the fire.

“The news was just heartbreaking. It really was an unnecessary death that occurred,” Lucille Bruce, the CEO of End Homelessness Winnipeg, told CTV News.

Bruce said the recent cold weather spell in Winnipeg puts people experiencing homelessness at an even greater risk.

She said the city needs more low-income and low-barrier supportive housing options for people who are unsheltered.

The city said it is believed the explosion was caused by aerosols igniting, but the cause of the fire is being investigated.

“They (people experiencing homelessness) will use fires or things that can create hazards to their safety to try and keep warm during these extreme cold weather days,” Bruce said. “It’s a really vicious circle.”

In a statement to CTV News, Main Street Project said its van patrol mobile outreach will continue to support the community and work alongside Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

“Our thoughts are with those who will be directly impacted through this loss, and we will continue to rally around with and for the community,” the statement reads.

No other injuries were reported in the fire.

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