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Fire destroys camp used by homeless in Bloomington

Advocates are sharing their concern in Bloomington after a fire destroyed a camp, leaving some without a warm place to stay.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — There's always concern about those experiencing homelessness when temperatures plunge to dangerous lows.

Advocates are sharing their concern in Bloomington after a fire destroyed a camp, leaving some without a warm place to stay.

Whatever is left of the camp has either been damaged by smoke and water or is covered in mud in a wooded area off Walnut Avenue. It's where some of Bloomington’s homeless population is known to live. 

Forrest Gilmore is executive director of Beacon Inc., an organization that helps serve the city’s homeless population with shelters and outreach on the streets. He told 13News the recent single-digit temperatures can be deadly for people living outside. 

“It’s a very dangerous time," he said. "It’s particularly dangerous for people who might have severe mental illness or severe substance use issues, who might not be able to physically care for themselves in this weather."

It's not known what started the fire.

"They could have lit a fire. They could have had a camp stove. They could have had a candle that they were trying to keep lit. No one’s really sure, of course, of what exactly led to the fire, but absolutely it’s that time of year when people are in extra need of warmth,” Gilmore said. 

RELATED: City, IMPD go to work to assist people experiencing homelessness as temperatures plummet

“We probably have, right now, somewhere between 30 and 40 people sleeping outside throughout the city,” said Gilmore, adding he wasn’t sure who was sleeping in the camp Sunday when the fire started around 9 p.m.

When fire crews arrived, all they saw were flames.   

“At this point, we’re trying to figure out who was staying in that particular camp. There’s been a lot of movement in and out of that camp. I don’t think, at this point, we’ve located who exactly has been staying there that night,” Gilmore said.

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