Regina Park tent city campers helpful after incident with leader and fire inspectors

The Regina Park tent city is back in the spotlight due to an incident at the encampment last week.

On July 6, the leader of the camp was arrested for allegedly blowing an air horn in the ear of a fire fighter, according to Saanich police. The incident happened when the Saanich fire department was trying to do a safety inspection.

Saanich mayor Richard Atwell said the fire department was trying to go in and ensure safety of the camp.

“It just shows the situation boiling over on that particular day,” Atwell said. “The police and fire are just trying to do their jobs. It’s the job of the police department to keep the peace, it’s the job of the fire department to keep people safe in that camp.

“There was an order that was issued by the fire commissioner, so the fire department is trying to go through and make sure that all those requirements are in place for the safety of the folks that are in that park.”

A homeless advocacy group alleges that firefighters were damaging a resident’s tent, which is what the leader was trying to prevent.

“[T]he founder of Camp Namegans, was arrested for preventing a fire marshal from throwing away someone's home without their consent,” the Alliance Against Displacement said in a statement.

Saanich’s fire chief, Michael Burgess said most campers are helpful when speaking with inspectors and park staff.

“Once we are able to actually speak with the residents themselves and make them aware of some of the risks that they’re actually facing, for the most part they’ve generally been cooperative and helpful,” Burgess said. “With the helpful park staff that we’ve had there, we’ve been able to start to reduce some of the concerns and debris and hazards that we’re dealing with in the park.”

After the incident there was a cleanup in the park, which councillor Fred Haynes said went smoothly.

“Our staff went in and did a good job, we removed three truckloads of sofas, pallets, and such,” Haynes said. “To their credit the campers complied and were actually quite helpful in making sure it went smoothly.”

Saanich council will vote tonight on allocating $700,000 to the tent city, which would cover overtime for police, fire, and park staff, as well as toilet facilities and other for the campers.

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