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Multiple explosions at Kalamazoo homeless encampment leaves one with minor injuries

Kalamazoo Homeless Encampment Fire
Posted at 3:38 PM, Jan 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-25 16:43:40-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — Multiple explosions at a homeless encampment in Kalamazoo on Sunday night left one person with minor injuries.

RELATED: Police: Kalamazoo encampment fire caused by filling propane tank near open flame

Now, officials are trying to make sure it doesn't happen again.

There are about 70 people who live in the encampment off of Mills Street, according to Hope Network. Six of those people lost their homes due to the fire and explosions.

"There was a fire that was already prepared. It was a prepared bonfire that was being used for heating at the encampment there," said Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Fire Marshal Scott Brooks.

On Sunday night just after 6:30, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety responded to a call of a tent on fire and propane tanks exploding.

Brooks said the cause was from a person using an improvised device attached to a large propane tank to fill smaller one pound cylinders.

"While he was doing that there was gas that was expelled from out of one of the containers. The gas then reached the open flame that was already burning at which point it caused an explosion," said Brooks.

It didn't just cause one explosion. Brooks said due to the intense heat from the fire, 15 additional one pound propane tanks exploded.

One man who lives at the camp said he saw it unfold.

"Everyone started running and jumping out. We got everyone, learned what was going on and got them away from the area. Then the tank started blowing up," said Ian "Mo" Dalenzuela who saw the explosions.

"It is unfortunate because folks are trying to stay warm out here," said Chad Johnson with Community Outreach Prevention and Education Network.

Johnson said he comes out to the camps five to six times a week. Among other things, he said he and others are doing the best they can to help ensure everyone stays safe while also keeping warm.

"We can’t promise that there aren’t going to be fires out here, however, we are trying to ensure folks out here have fire extinguishers and can still stay warm but in a safe way," said Johnson.

Johnson is also asking people to give those living at the encampments their privacy.

If you'd like to donate or help out, Johnson is asking you contact one of the non-profits directly like Hope Network instead of showing up to bring things yourself.

In addition, the fire marshal strongly encourages people to use proper propane refueling centers and not improvised devices to prevent incidents like this one from happening.