A massive fire that started at a tent camp in Saint John on Saturday night claimed the life of a 44-year-old man, named, Evan Macarthur. Read on to learn more about the tragic incident in detail.
What happened to Evan Macarthur?
Evan Macarthur died tragically in a Tent Encampment fire on January 6, 2024. First responders were called to the scene at approximately 8 p.m. on Sunday, according to Ed Moyer, platoon chief of Saint John Fire, following reports of an outdoor fire close to the Main Street overpass heading toward Highway 1.
Evan, 44, who lived in a homeless encampment passed away on Saturday evening, according to Saint John police.
At approximately 8 p.m., emergency personnel arrived at the encampment, which is situated close to the Main Street viaduct that spans Route 1.
According to a press release from the police, Evan Macarthur had severe burn injuries when the crew arrived at the fire scene.
Saint John encampment fire- explained:
Ed Moyer, the platoon chief, stated on Sunday that building the encampment was difficult for the firefighters. He claimed that among other things, propane cylinders, cooking appliances, and heating equipment “made it a difficult and unsafe area.”
Ivan McCullough, a co-founder of Street Team Saint John, a group that helps provide food and necessities to homeless Saint John residents, said a volunteer from the organization was in the area on Saturday and saw the flames.
She went to the scene, stayed, and did her best to assist the people involved after calling 911, who had already been notified.
Meanwhile, McCullough raced to the camp carrying emergency kits that included basic supplies for establishing a new shelter, including some food and warm clothes.
He stated that those who were not injured in the fire were shaken, but physically fine, and that the organization worked to get those who wanted to go to various shelters.
There was one person who did not want to go to a shelter, but McCullough said he could not blame people for not wanting to go because everyone has different reasons.
If you’re desperate … you’re going to do whatever you think you need to do to try to get warm, and the situation is, it’s so complex, there’s so many things that are involved,” he said.
“As far as getting people into housing, you have to have places to get them to first.”
Investigation going on:
Investigators have started to investigate the origin of the fire. The Saint John Police Force and Fire Department are also investigating the cause of the fire.
McCullough stated that solutions cannot rely solely on one entity. He asserted that the community and the federal, provincial, and local governments must work together on this.
In terms of the community, McCullough stated that his organization only works to provide food and shelter; however, addressing the issue of homelessness would necessitate the involvement of many more people.
He suggested that establishing authorized encampments in areas with better shelter and increased security would be one way to address the issue. He said that some people’s reluctance to leave their tents stems from their fear of returning to nothing.
A significant incident like a fire, according to McCullough, would be devastating for anyone.
“Of course, it’s going to be devastating. But most of these folks are far more resilient than maybe you or I would be for the first little while,” he said.
City needs long-term solutions:
Coun. Paula Radwan stated that community groups are working on temporary solutions, and the province has set up an out-of-the-cold shelter, but this is insufficient.
“We need permanent solutions,” she stated. “We are getting the housing accelerator fund, which will be announced very soon how much the city is getting and how that will be allocated, but we need these solutions like months ago.”
She asserted that pressure must be put on the city and all tiers of government.
“I’m very concerned, because it’s getting cold and people have great needs and because of inflation, there’s a lot of people that are one paycheque away from being in a tent.”
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