Commissioner Gonzalez halts Portland tent and tarp distribution citing fires

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:20 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Rene Gonzalez, Portland City Commissioner of Public Safety, announced on Tuesday that he would be suspending tent and tarp distribution within the Public Safety Bureaus he manages, including Portland Fire, effective immediately.

In a news release, Gonzalez cited a rash of tent-related fires in public spaces, including one Tuesday morning under the Morrison Bridge at Southeast Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. No people were injured but Portland Fire confirmed that six puppies and a mother dog died in the fire.

“It has become clear that tent and tarp-related fires are a grave public safety emergency for our city,” wrote Gonzalez. “Unsanctioned fires put our first responders, houseless individuals, and our neighborhoods at risk. I am taking immediate action to save lives and protect Portlanders from life-shattering injuries. To Portland’s houseless community members: I implore you to seek shelter in public warming centers during cold weather events.”

Portland Fire Marshal Kari Schimel added that Portland Fire has been called to 1,015 tent and tarp-related fires over the last two years.

“On each of these calls our first responders put their lives at risk,” wrote Schimel. “Given the heat sources generating these fires and the flammable nature of the materials in question, I have unequivocally advised Commissioner Gonzalez that there is no such thing as a safe, unsanctioned fire in a tent.”

Gonzalez’s office said that distribution of sleeping bags, blankets, and other warming supplies would continue.