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Blaze at Homeless Encampment Under Investigation

Police and the Fire Marshal's office are investigating the incident, which may be linked to an altercation.

In the woods off Ash Circle in the Warminster Heights section of the township Tuesday afternoon, a fire ripped through a structure that was inhabited by a homeless person, and the cause remains under investigation, authorities report.

The fire occurred in a wooden structure, once used by paintballers, that was inhabited by a homeless person, Fire Marshal Dan Laurich said at the scene. The fire was contained to the structure and some brush surrounding it. No official cause has been determined yet, he added.

The fire was discovered by Battalion Chief Pete Croak, who spotted thick black smoke rising from the wooded area, jumped into his SUV and began investigating; discovering the fire at the camp in the woods. Within minutes firefighters were stretching hoses into the woods.

According to authorities, the fire is thought to have stemmed from an altercation between several of the homeless who lived in the woods off Ash Circle, between the SEPTA tracks and Jacksonville Road. Detectives were at the scene Tuesday and one homeless man was taken to police headquarters.

"The case is under investigation and no determination has been made as of yet," Police Chief Michael Murphy said late Wednesday afternoon.

Police were aware of the encampment, which is comprised of several small structures and tents in the center of the woods, authorities said. Police believe four people had been living in the wooded-area.

Employees of a business in the industrial park near the encampment said the homeless residents have never been a problem and often pick up litter from the parking lot.

Kevin Quinn January 12, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Is it legal to live in the woods like that? The more I head about criminal and quetionable activities along Jacksonville Road between Street and County line the less I want to go anywhere near that area.

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