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CFD cautions against giving propane tanks to the homeless

Chicago Fire Department firefighters remove propane tanks from the homeless encampment near Roosevelt Road and South Desplaines Street, overlooking the Dan Ryan Expressway, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 30, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago Fire Department firefighters remove propane tanks from the homeless encampment near Roosevelt Road and South Desplaines Street, overlooking the Dan Ryan Expressway, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 30, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Chicago Fire Department officials are asking the public to refrain from bringing propane tanks to homeless encampments during the historic cold snap, stating that the tanks are a fire and explosion hazard.

Crews were called shortly after noon Wednesday for reports of propane tanks at a South Loop homeless encampment near Roosevelt Road and Desplaines Street, according to Fire Media Affairs spokesman Larry Merritt.

It was the same encampment where activist Andrew Holmes spent a night last year to raise awareness for the city’s homeless population.

While they were dropped off by people trying to help the camp’s residents stay warm, Merritt said propane tanks are unsafe to use for heating because of the risk of fires or explosions.

”We’re just trying to avoid any tragedies,” Merritt said.

CFD personnel conducted a controlled burn of one of the tanks at the site and will be disposing of the rest, Merritt said.

He said anyone who needs to stay warm in the harsh weather should take advantage of the warming centers or shelters offered by the city.

Members of the Night Ministry’s Street Medicine Outreach Team visited multiple homeless encampments Tuesday night to check on the residents and encourage them to go to warming shelters.

The city’s largest shelter, Pacific Garden Mission, broke its normal protocol against short-term visitors to take in about 800 people overnight Tuesday into Wednesday.

Chicago Fire Department firefighters remove propane tanks from the homeless encampment near Roosevelt Road and South Desplaines Street, overlooking the Dan Ryan Expressway, Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 30, 2019. | Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times