Fire Department: Propane heater cause of fire at Northampton homeless camp

  • Smoke from a Sunday morning fire under the South Street bridge near the Roundhouse parking lot in downtown Northampton. The fire was unintentional. NORTHAMPTON POLICE FACEBOOK PAGE

  • A Sunday morning fire under the South Street bridge near the Roundhouse parking lot in downtown Northampton was caused by a propane heater being operated too close to combustibles, the Northampton Fire Department said on Monday. The fire was unintentional. NORTHAMPTON POLICE FACEBOOK PAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 2/1/2021 6:09:28 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A propane heater caused a fire that destroyed a number of homeless people’s tents downtown Sunday morning, fire officials said on Monday.

The investigation into the fire under the South Street bridge near the Roundhouse parking lot found that the propane heater was being operated too close to combustibles, Assistant Chief Andrew Pelis said. He said the fire was unintentional.

One person went to Cooley Dickinson Hospital “for observation” on Sunday, but Pelis didn’t have information about the person’s condition.

It’s not clear how many tents and shelters were at the site before the fire, but earlier this winter there were at least four tents there. On Sunday morning, the tents were gone and only debris was left.

Kalia Richards, who lives at the Grove Street Inn, looked over what was left of the area on Sunday.

“We are all one big community,” Richards said, when asked if she was friends with the people who had been in the tents.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to collect supplies for those affected by the fire. Posts were being circulated on social media to gather items such as tents, jackets and food.

Jess Tilley, who co-founded HRH413, a harm reductionist group, and the New England Users Union, said she heard from a participant in HRH413 that their tent burned down. She was collecting donations with Kali Baba McConnell, who runs a group called Nothing But Kindness.

“What I’ve been able to rustle up is a bunch of blankets, hats, gloves, mittens. I’ve got a couple pairs of boots,” McConnell said. “I’ve been homeless before as well. I know some of the challenges so I try to pay it back to the system.”

Tilley said they were able to give some tents and food as well. Anyone who has items or money they want to donate can contact her at

Greta Jochem can be reached at


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