Fire crews tackle ‘out of control’ bonfire at homeless camp in East Ham

The smoke billowing over Barking. Picture: Sophie Morton

The smoke billowing over Barking. Picture: Sophie Morton - Credit: Archant

A fire broke out at a homeless camp beside the North Circular Road in East Ham causing billowing plumes of black smoke.

The smoke billowing over Barking. Picture: Sophie Morton

The smoke billowing over Barking. Picture: Sophie Morton - Credit: Archant

Firefighters ducked through chain-link fences and pushed back branches to reach the site, situated in a wooded area at the corner of Burges Road and Barking Road following reports of an out of control bonfire received shortly after 11am.

The fire, metres away from several terraced houses, burned a large part of the camp and surrounding trees, though no injuries were reported, said attending Sgt Perman of Met Police.

Mark Clarke, of nearby Melbourne Road, told the Recorder his family had looked after several horses on Miers Close Wildlife Area beside the camp for about three decades.

The 33-year-old said he had rushed towards the smoke after hearing a “loud bang”.

East Ham homeless camp. Picture: Alex Shaw

East Ham homeless camp. Picture: Alex Shaw - Credit: Alex Shaw

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“I must have been gas or an aerosol bottle,” he said, adding he had not been aware of the shelters.

His father, however, had dealt with a previous rough sleeper some years ago.

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“We tried legally to get him out but we couldn’t do it because we weren’t the official owners of the land,” he went on.

No information was available on what sparked the fire.

London Fire Brigade sent one crew from Barking station to the scene, who were damping down flames within half an hour.

While crews hosed down the remaining embers, the charred frame of a baby stroller stood among the wreckage.

There were signs children had been present. A pink push bike could be spotted beside an overturned shopping trolley. Elsewhere, an inflatable ball lay next to a brazier.

Enough equipment existed to support several people. Lager cans and water bottles littered the undergrowth, beside plastic chairs, tent equipment and dumbbells.

A bag of toiletries hung from a branch, clothes dried on a washing line and makeshift shelves had been set up in a tree fork.

Eyewitnesses suggest rough sleepers seek work at an industrial estate close by, waiting for shifts at construction sites or other manual work.

Several men approached at the estate declined to comment.

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