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'We could've been burnt alive': Fire in Phoenix's 'The Zone' displaces people

The fire, isolated to one block near Ninth Avenue and Jefferson Street, destroyed everything for at least two makeshift homes.

PHOENIX — A fire Monday night at Phoenix's largest homeless encampment, known as "The Zone," has left some people displaced and uncertain of where to go.

The fire, isolated to one block near Ninth Avenue and Jefferson Street, still destroyed everything for at least two makeshift homes.

From clothes to appliances, everything Aisha owns, is now gone.

"This is all my stuff," she said pointing to the sidewalk. "It's just a tragedy you know. The fire was going pretty quick, there was nothing we could really do."

Aisha asked we only use her first name and says she's been living near the corner of Ninth Avenue and Jefferson Street for about five months.

"As soon as I hit the corner, I seen the flames," she said.

She said Monday night her neighbor was cooking food, when the fire spread to her encampment and everything caught fire.

"When you come home to nothing and you already don't have nothing," she said. "Starting over is very rough. Especially, when you don't have a network; family, friends or anything."

She said fires happen often in the area. In fact, as 12News went out to report on this fire, another small one started a street over. 

Those who work nearby, like Bill Morlan, worry more will happen.

"This time of year it gets worse," he said. "My biggest concern is how many people get hurt. All they're trying to do is keep themselves warm, they have nowhere else to go right now."

The Phoenix Fire Department said they're looking into how many fires happen in the area, adding they generally see more fires during the winter months, regardless of living situation. For those without traditional shelter, the risk of fire is even higher. 

They also tell 12News that "anyone who experienced any health issues due to the fire was medically cleared and we also had a crisis team available to help those who were displaced."

The City of Phoenix also sent the following statement saying: 

"The Phoenix Fire Department is aware of this incident. However, no matter where a fire occurs within the City of Phoenix and its surrounding jurisdiction, Phoenix firefighters work diligently to extinguish any fire to stop the spread and immediately connect community members with necessary resources. In the event of a fire impacting those experiencing homelessness, the Fire Department is proud to connect those in need with the Community Assistance Program. Additionally, the City is urgently working to identify safe, indoor spaces which can quickly provide shelter for our most vulnerable residents and significant resources have been allocated for this purpose. The City is always exploring new opportunities and looking for creative solutions and will continue to make investments to address the short-term need to increase shelter capacity and the long-term need for affordable housing."

The city is in the midst of fighting a lawsuit filed by downtown residents who feel Phoenix has failed to adequately address homelessness. 

People like Aisha who have lived in "The Zone" encampment are continuing to make the best of a difficult situation. 

"I'm strong," Aisha said. "I've been knocked down so many times in a short period."

Aisha doesn't know what's next, but knows it could've been worse.

"You just have to have faith," she said. "We could've been in there, we could've been burnt alive."

RELATED: Judge hears arguments over conditions in 'The Zone,' Phoenix's largest homeless encampment

RELATED: Phoenix says residents can't use courts to force city to address homelessness

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