A space heater is said to be the cause of a storage unit fire early Wednesday morning, leaving behind hundreds of thousands of dollar worth of damage.
Fire investigators say a homeless man was living inside the unit to escape from the cold. By the time fire crews arrived he was outside the unit, but was rushed immediately to the hospital with second-degree burns.
The Sentry Self Storage owner didn't want to talk on camera, but told News 9 she had no doubt Wednesday morning of how the fire started as she rushed to the property. She tells us last month a tenant hired the homeless man to help him move into the unit.
For the next two weeks, employees continued to find him lurking inside the storage facility, appearing as though he was living at the unit. The owner says he was repeatedly asked to leave. Before Wednesday morning, he'd not been seen for more than two weeks.
Dan Straughan, director for the Homeless Alliance says our recent temperature dive drives the unsheltered homeless population into survival mode.
“Folks that refuse, for whatever reason, to go to the shelters may seek shelter in those places. Of course, if they are vacant and abandoned, and then they are not heated, and so they will tempt to find some way to stay warm,” said Straughan.
And that is what the Warr Acres Fire Department says the homeless man did Tuesday night, using a high-voltage space heater to keep him warm. Investigators believe the heater sparked and lit a box of fire.
The fire was contained to just one unit, but the damage is widespread throughout the building between water and smoke damage. And a low end dollar amount damage estimate starts at $300,000.
The owner of the storage unit claims he had no idea anyone was living inside his unit.