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Fire at Golden Gate Park homeless camp leaves man badly burned

A fire truck races down a street.
The cause of the fire is under investigation, officials said, and the burn victim is hospitalized for serious injuries. | Source: Johner Bildbyra/Getty Images

Authorities are investigating a fire that ignited at a homeless camp in Golden Gate Park on Monday afternoon and left a man hospitalized with serious burns.

San Francisco Fire Department said crews responded to an encampment fire at 2:44 p.m. near Stanyan and Hayes streets, where they found the man and promptly transported him to a burn center with severe injuries.

There was no information immediately available on whether any areas of the park were closed due to the fire. The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department has been contacted for comment.

Homeless people often seek shelter in the park to get some privacy away from the gaze of passersby.

By official counts, the park’s unhoused population roughly halved between 2013 and 2022. But experts say it’s hard to get an exhaustive tally in a 1,000-acre expanse covered in forest and foliage.

Encampment fires have also become increasingly common in San Francisco, with such fires doubling over the last five years and causing millions of dollars in damage, data shows.

The fires have sparked heated debate over whether the city’s doing enough to protect neighborhoods from the safety impacts. Many believe an August 2023 fire at a Hayes Valley construction site was caused by such a fire, as neighbors say they spotted unhoused people inside the structure leading up to the blaze.

The city’s stance on encampments may also take a harsher turn following the Supreme Court’s decision in the Grants Pass v. Johnson case Friday.

A Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling had barred the Oregon city of Grants Pass from enforcing public camping laws, but after the country’s highest court overturned the ruling, San Francisco Mayor London Breed promised harsher criminal penalties for unhoused people who refuse city offers of shelter.