A fire destroyed a small tent at the encampment at the former Brookside Youth Centre on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.
Cobourg resident Matt Fry said he was driving along King Street East around 11 a.m. when he noticed a number of encampment residents around a tent that was smoking.
Fry said there was visible fire on the ground and people were pulling parts of the melted nylon tent apart.
He could also see that bedding material had also been burned or melted.
Fry said he notified the fire department as to what he witnessed and they attended.
There was no one inside the tent that was destroyed by the fire. When fire crews arrived, members of the encampment had extinguished the fire.
It’s believed a napsack laying against or near the wood stove may have started the fire.
There was no one inside the tent at the time and security seemed to be unaware of what had happened.
Encampment resident Chris Kneilands has been living at the encampment since the beginning of September 2023.
Kneilands spoke to Today’s Northumberland and said residents are doing “ok” and they are keeping “warmish.”
A number of wood stoves have been placed in certain tents with the approval of the Cobourg Fire Department.
Kneilands said there are more that haven’t arrived, but as the weather dips below freezing, “we are doing the best we can.”
Although Kneilands doesn’t speak for everyone, he said when 310 Division Street does open in the Spring and if it meets the needs, residents will attend.
Until then, “we still have to hunker down for the winter, or whenever (until) its available.”
Regularly there are approximately 20 people living at the encampment and they are “figuring it out as we go.”
“There is no handbook to tell us how to navigate this.”
Members of the encampment sometimes have “spats,” but Kneilands said they are a community and get along for the most part and work together to get things done – “and function as a family.”
Some people at the encampment suffer from addiction and other health issues, but Kneilands said that, “lots of people that are unemployed can work, but there is just not jobs.”
Most of the tents with wood stoves are four season canvas tents that can be ordered online and have been bought through crowd funding.
“They hold the heat well and they’ll do I guess, (but) we’ll see what the winter brings.”.