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'Hundreds of needles,' piles of trash found at Austin homeless camp that caught fire

Firefighters said this fire was a "much more dangerous situation" given it was underneath a bridge and the amount of trash there.

AUSTIN, Texas — Firefighters worked for hours on Monday at a homeless camp fire in northeast Austin. 

Battalion Chief Matt Cox said the camp stretches around 300 yards underneath the Eastbound Anderson Lane Frontage Road. 

"There’s tunnels, there’s everything," he said on Monday morning. "They euphemistically call it the catacombs because it’s so dark and kind of creepy."

RELATED: 'Large fire' reported at homeless camp in northeast Austin

Firefighters spent the morning searching through debris inside and outside of the camp. 

"You don’t know what’s in these piles, whether it be propane tanks, rodents that are ready to jump out and bite you, needles you can step on, just a ton of stuff that makes it more dangerous than a regular house fire," said Cox.

Cox said along with those obstacles, the location of the camp added to the danger firefighters faced. 

"Normally we’d be able to put out fires pretty quickly because we’re used to house fires and getting in there," Cox said. "This is a much more dangerous situation. We had to go down into a creek bed, underneath the bridge. There’s literally hundreds of needles on the ground. There’s trash, there’s couches, propane tanks, generators." 

Cox continued listing things firefighters found inside. The list included makeshift doors with locks and bunk beds.  

Cox said investigators aren't sure what caused the fire. He said that an undetermined cause is typically the case for fires at homeless camps. 

"Because the large amount of trash and debris and usually there’s no one here to tell us what happened," he explained. "And we haven’t found any residents of the camp underneath here. There’s a lot of people that live here."

Cox guessed anywhere from 10 to 100 people live at the camp. 

He said there were no known injuries. 

KVUE spoke with the Watershed Protection Department on Monday. It said it plans to clean up the camp but a start date has not yet been determined.


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