120 fires a year linked to homeless encampments; another one happened two days ago

Redwood City’s latest fire that started in a homeless encampment broke out Wednesday on Stambaugh Street. Photo courtesy of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District union.

Daily Post Staff Writer

A Redwood City fire official said yesterday that the city sees an average of 120 fires a year due to homeless encampments, and firefighters on Wednesday had to put out another one on Stambaugh Street that damaged a home next door.

Deputy Fire Chief Greg DaCuhna said the department has been tracking homeless-related fires since 2018, which is when things started “taking off.” He said because Redwood City is the county seat, it’s where many homeless people get assistance, so they camp nearby.

One such fire occurred at an encampment at Woodside Road and El Camino Real on Feb. 13, just down the street from a hotel that will be renovated into housing for the homeless. No one was injured in that fire, but a fence near an apartment complex, two cars, tents, mattresses and some of a camper’s belongings were damaged, according to the city. That fire produced a pillar of smoke that could be seen as far away as Palo Alto.

Some successes

DaCuhna said there have been some successful programs to help reduce these sorts of fires, pointing to the RV parking program near the Maple Street jail and the county purchasing three hotels in Redwood City for people to move into.

But, there are still people who don’t want help from officials, DaCuhna said.

“We’ve had some cleanups because of the numbers and impact on public safety, but now here is a family now displaced from their residence,” DaCuhna said.

Encampment was under pedestrian bridge

As for the fire on Stambaugh, it broke out sometime before 10:58 a.m. on Wednesday, which is when firefighters were dispatched to the call on the 900 block of Stambaugh Street, said DaCuhna.

He said while the exact cause of the fire is still under investigation, the fire appears to have started in the encampment under the pedestrian bridge, burned through the redwood fence between the home and pedestrian bridge, catching the home’s garage on fire.

Firefighters evacuated the home, and were able to prevent the fire from getting into the home’s attic, DaCuhna said.

The fire was completely extinguished by 11:30 a.m. Menlo Park Fire District, Woodside and San Mateo Consolidated all assisted Redwood City fire in putting out the fire, DaCuhna said. A total of 23 people were on scene for the fire.


  1. 120 fires in ONE YEAR in ONE CITY? That’s crazy! City Council needs to have the police clear out these encampments like they’re doing in San Jose. One of these fires could kill somebody!

    • Okay. And when people get cleared out of their encampments, they’ll just go back to their penthouses in the sky.

      • They should go back to the places they used to live. They come to California for the permissive drug laws, free food, free health insurance, free welfare money and people who stupidly give money to panhandlers. We’ve made their lives to easy. Take away the free stuff and they’ll be on the next bus out of here. Remember the bums at Docktown? We took away their freebees and they left.

  2. Now that RC is up to 120 homeless fires a year it’s time to move Mayor Gisselle Hale up to the Legislature to see if she can do the same thing statewide.

  3. The Democrat party cartel in Sacramento control most city, county and state police unions, SEIU and other government employees and unions. The police bankroll the democrats election. Parts of Redwood City look like a third world city. I have noticed the police have disappeared the last three years. Its no wonder crime is out of control. Sixty five percent of Redwood Cities budget pays for police pensions.

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