Man Dies in Fire at Oakland Homeless Encampment

A man died in a fire at a homeless encampment near Highway 24 and I-980 on Feb. 12, 2018 in Oakland. (Tara Siler/KQED)

A man died Monday morning at an Oakland homeless encampment after his living structure caught on fire, according to Oakland Fire Battalion Chief Ian McWhorter.

The fire broke out at a camp at Sycamore Street and Northgate Avenue, just east of Highway 24 and north of the city's Uptown neighborhood.

McWhorter says the structure was made of plywood and two-by- fours and had a door. No cause has been determined and an arson investigation is underway.

Two similar wood structures stood unscathed next to the blackened remains.

The man, who has not yet been identified, was known as “Kilo” by one resident who lives nearby. Shawn Moses says he awoke around 5 a.m. to a woman screaming and the “sound of crackling.” He says that when he went outside “the whole tent was ablaze.”


Moses says he has lived at this encampment for four years and that there are about 100 homeless residents, with many living in tents.

Swords to Plowshares is one of several groups working at the encampment -- trying to get residents, especially veterans, connected to housing and services.

“Sometimes we fall short of doing what we want to do and we have horrendous things like this happen,” said Plowshares’ Dennis Johnson, who was taking pictures of the fire Monday morning.

There have been a number of recent fires at tent encampments in Oakland.

The city is struggling with how to deal with a surging homeless population. It recently put up storage sheds to house people in a fenced-in location near downtown. The site acts as a navigation center,  where residents can access social services and get connected to more permanent housing.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Fire Department has responded to 47 encampment fires so far this year, though those also include calls for things like open flames for cooking and heat.

There will be a memorial for the fire victim at the encampment at 6 this evening.