Fatal Fire Demonstrates Risk to Maine’s Homeless

The discovery of a man’s ‘badly burned’ body prompts calls for outreach, as more homeless people forgo shelters to camp outside in Portland (ME), reports the Portland Press Herald.

The state Fire Marshal’s Office has identified the victim as Brian Barbour, 53.

Barbour apparently died of smoke inhalation, said Sgt. Joel Davis of the Fire Marshal’s Office

Investigators say it appears the fire may have been caused by a candle inside Barbour’s tent, which ignited the contents.

Firefighters quickly extinguished the fire, which destroyed a tent and some personal belongings and scorched a small wooded area. Firefighters also discovered a “badly burned” body, LaMoria said.

LaMoria said the tragedy demonstrates how vulnerable the city’s homeless population is.

LaMoria said he has started talking with the city about creating an outreach program that would offer fire safety tips to homeless people who have chosen to camp outside rather than stay in a city shelter.

“The homeless place themselves at great risk when forced to use open flames for heating and lighting,” LaMoria said in a news release issued Sunday.

Saturday’s fire is the third reported at a homeless encampment that the city has responded to this year, LaMoria said.

In one of those fires, two people suffered minor burns and had to be taken to a hospital after the candles they were burning set fire to their shelter.

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