Fires started by homeless to stay warm raise concern - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Fires used by homeless raise safety concerns

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

A woman's death is raising questions about fire safety at a homeless camp off of Old Louisville Road.

Firefighters say fires started by the homeless to stay warm is a big issue.

"Just in the sense that we do regularly go to put out fires at the encampments where the homeless stay," said Mark Keller of Savannah Fire and Emergency Services.

Savannah firefighters were called to a homeless campsite off of Louisville Road near Interstate 16. That's were 53-year-old Johnnie Houk was killed.

"There was nothing but swirls in there. I couldn't get to her. She was screaming my name, but I couldn't get to her," said Houk's boyfriend Charles Counts.

Houk's boyfriend of about a year and a half said his girlfriend has a son and daughter who are both living out of state.

Firefighters say this is the time of the year when those who are homeless start fires to stay warm - endangering nearby homes and businesses in the process.

"A lot of times in these encampments, they'll start fires and then they'll leave. And they haven't made sure that the fire's completely extinguished before it's left unattended," Keller said.

He said that other issue is a lot of the items and appliances they use have been discarded by other people - maybe because they didn't work properly - maybe because electrical cords are frayed.

"So the heating devices that they sometimes use probably shouldn't be used to begin with," Keller said.

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