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Man Dies In Early Morning Fire At Oakland Homeless Encampment

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – A male victim died in a fire Monday morning at a homeless encampment in Oakland, a fire battalion chief said.

The fire was reported at 5:23 a.m. near Northgate Avenue and Sycamore Street, under Interstate Highway 980.

Battalion Chief Ian McWhorter said the fire has been extinguished and no one else was injured.

McWhorter couldn't say yet how the fire started. But an arson investigation is underway.

The homeless camp was a little different than a typical tent camp because the residents had built small structures with two-by-fours and plywood.

Oakland Homeless Encampment Fire
Scene of a deadly fire at a homeless encampment in Oakland on February 12, 2018. (CBS)

"They're getting very creative," McWhorter said.

The structure had a door, but probably not a smoke alarm, he said.

According to McWhorter, two or three more structures are in the same area.

Kevin Rodriquez said he is the cousin of the victim.

Rodriquez said, "Out here on the street, there's no shelter."

Fire investigators say the victim was found inside one of the makeshift homes that keep popping up under the I-980 overpass.

A volunteer came through the encampment and started building the makeshift homes.

Most of the structures offer some privacy, a place to sllep and some storage. But they are unregulated by the fire department.

Oakland fire Battalion Chief Nick Luby said, "Anytime you're living or sleeping around or in any combustible material that is not built to code or a fire code, there is obviously going to be an increased risk."

Heather Freinkel is a managing attorney for the Homeless Action Center in Oakland and says she wishes this death would be seen as a wake-up call for the city to start legally and safely building what the homeless already are setting up without permission.

© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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