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Stockton Firefighters Overwhelmed By Homeless Camp Fires

STOCKTON (CBS13) — Firefighters in Stockton say they're getting overwhelmed. Not with fires at homes or businesses, but with so-called "junk fires."

Last year alone, crews responded to more than 2,000 of them.

It only takes a matter of minutes for a small fire to get out of control.

"We get pretty serious and spectacular homeless encampment fires and those are either caused by warming fires or cooking fires," said Stockton Fire Battalion Chief Lane Healy.

Healy said it's becoming a bigger problem every year. In 2018, they put out more than 2,000 rubbish fires, many at homeless encampments within feet of businesses and homes.

Martha and Carlos Prijalvay have lived in their Stockton neighborhood for 20 years and these days, fires are a constant concern.

"Fires always every day. Sometimes two or three times a day. We hear them all the time and come out to see where they're going," said Carlos Prijalvay.

Their wood home sits just across the street from a homeless encampment and was within reach of a fire that started three Tuesday.

Battalion chief Healy said city code enforcers are our trying to tackle the problem but as soon as they clean up one camp, another one pops up somewhere else.

"I don't know that anyone in California has the answer right now. I guess it sounds overly simplistic to say that we're just going to keep doing our job and the best that we can do," Healy said.

The city of Stockton released a statement Tuesday, calling homelessness the city council's highest priority and saying they will be working with the county to combat the issue.

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