A man who died following a weekend fire in Council Bluffs had been living in a homeless encampment near the railroad tracks. He’s now been identified as 35-year-old Bradley Raymond.
Council Bluffs Fire Marshal Jeff Hutcheson says dry weather in recent weeks was likely the reason a fire spread out of control quickly on Saturday. He says they don’t know just how it began, and the fire’s cause is still under investigation. It began near a large number of railroad tracks, in a wooded area that’s secluded without a lot of drive-by traffic.
A Union Pacific worker’s credited with spotting and reporting the blaze about eight Saturday evening. It’s essentially an encampment where he says some area homeless people used as a living quarters. “They had a little fireplace area set up and a sleeping area…it was actually a little compound,” Hutcheson says.
The fire marshal says the site’s been a hangout for the homeless for a number of years. The police department’s had run-ins with people in the area, and Hutcheson says Council Bluffs is not unlike other towns in Iowa and beyond where there’s a population of homeless people who make shelter in places like under railroad overpasses and bridges, in timbered areas and secluded places in and outside of town. He says that’s what this was.
Authorities determined Raymond had been living at the encampment for the last couple weeks or so, although he has family in the area and they contacted relatives including parents to notify them of his death. Hutcheson says he thinks funeral arrangements are pending.
The weather’s been very dry in the area where the man was injured when a campfire apparently went out of control and became a brushfire on Saturday. Just because there was some rain this weekend doesn’t mean the danger’s over, he points out, as Pottawatamie County’s had an open burning ban in place for weeks now. Ironically, the weekend rainstorm hampered investigation of the site of the fire, and prevented doctors from sending the man via helicopter to a burn clinic in Lincoln, Nebraska. He died about seven Sunday morning at a hospital in Omaha.
Related web sites:
D-N-R burn ban list