Abandoned vehicles burn at troubled California homeless encampment

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    OAKLAND, California (KPIX) — The latest in several fires that have erupted at Oakland’s troubled Wood St. homeless encampment burned about 20 abandoned vehicles early Tuesday morning.

Officials said the latest blaze began around 1 a.m.

In what has become an all too familiar exercise, crews rushed to the scene and spent hours putting out the smoldering debris in the encampment which stretches for nearly three-quarters of a mile along Interstate 880.

More than 200 fires have erupted at the large encampment, forcing Caltrans to begin moving out the 200 residents who live there earlier this month.

Crews have been busy cleaning up the mounds of debris and removing old, mostly abandoned vehicles.

Among the residents who have been relocated to housing is Ron McGowan. He was a stagehand almost his entire life, and it was paying the rent, until COVID.

“During the pandemic we were the first ones to get hit,” he told KPIX. “A lot of other industries could pivot. You could not pivot as a stagehand.”

He took the money he had and put his belongings in storage. With nowhere else to go, he ended up at Wood Street.

“On and off for two years,” he said of his time in the encampment. “It has definitely been traumatic over there.”

The city said during the first phase of the cleanup about 45 people accepted some kind of help – shelter or a place for their RV.

The second phase of the cleanup has just gotten underway and will impact 40 encampment residents, officials said. Of those, 12 have agreed to move into alternative housing.

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