Fires at homeless encampments in San Jose draw concern from SJFD, city officials

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- New safety concerns are being raised about homeless camps along the Coyote Creek in San Jose.

San Jose firefighters who work in this area say there's been an uptick of fires.

Bags of garbage are being hauled out from a homeless encampment in the area.

In the last couple weeks, transients in the area clashed and things turned violent

"A member of the downtown streets team was threatened by someone with a knife and then another incident a couple days prior I believe that one of the rangers was assaulted by someone in an encampment," said Matt Mendriski, a San Jose Park Ranger.

The incident prompted the head park ranger to halt her team from patrolling Coyote Meadows unless a police escort is present. While park rangers are responsible for protecting the environment, they're constantly assessing for safety.

"It is a challenge because you're talking about 30 miles of creek bottom in San Jose you're never going to have enough resources and manpower with eliminating all risk," said David Vossbrink, a San Jose city spokesman.

Firefighters who work the region say lately they're getting called to put out brush fires in the area formerly known as "The Jungle" sometimes three to five times a day.

Numerous areas along 280 have been scorched during the day and night. So far, there's been one person arrested for arson.

"This is very concerning because arson is a dangerous crime. Fires can spread and hurt people and damage property so we take it very seriously," said Vossbrink.

The city says there's an open investigation into the fire reports. They're trying to figure out if one or two people are responsible or if the fires are part of a larger systemic problem.