PORTLAND, Maine — When local firefighters responded to a fire along the railroad tracks on West Commercial Street just before midnight Saturday, they made a grisly discovery — the burned body of a homeless man.
The fire claimed the life of the man, who was not identified, city spokeswoman Nicole Clegg said in a press release issued Sunday afternoon.
“As the fire was being extinguished, fire crews located the badly burned body of an adult male,” she said. “The fire, which was quickly extinguished, destroyed a tent, multiple personal belongings and scorched a small area of woods.”
Portland police and Fire Department investigators are working with experts from the fire marshal’s office to determine “the cause of the fire and the man’s death,” Clegg said later in the release.
Portland police, reached Sunday night, said that they could not release any additional information about the fatal fire.
Saturday night’s tragedy highlights the vulnerability of the city’s homeless population, Portland fire Chief Jerome LaMoria said.
“The homeless place themselves in great risk when forced to use open flame for heating and lighting,” he states in the release.
Clegg said the chief hopes to establish an outreach program to educate the homeless in fire safety tips.
Portland firefighters also responded to a large woods fire in the area of Evergreen Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, and evacuated a building on Grant Street for a short while Sunday night due to a malfunctioning furnace that filled the three-story apartment building with carbon monoxide, she said.