Authorities on Thursday released the identity of the woman killed in a fire that burned a homeless encampment this week in downtown St. Paul.
Janiece S. Williams, 32, was found dead Wednesday at the makeshift site on the north side of Shepard Road, according to the Ramsey County Medical Examiner's Office. One other person survived burns from the blaze, police said.
Williams is the third homeless person in the capital city to die in a critical incident this winter. City officials have spent months grappling with a spike in unsheltered homelessness and, citing risks of uncontrolled fires and exposure, are racing to close some of the largest encampments and relocate people into a new network of temporary shelters.
The blaze Wednesday morning along Shepard between Jackson and N. Sibley streets involved two tents, said Deputy Fire Chief Roy Mokosso.
The Fire Department has responded this winter to dozens of calls to encampments, which pose a serious fire risk, especially in the winter, as individuals surrounded by blankets, nylon tents and other debris light fires and heaters to stay warm, Mokosso said.
The cause of Wednesday's fire remains under investigation, but firewood was found at the scene, along with propane tanks and propane heaters, Mokosso said.
Staff writer Shannon Prather contributed to this report.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482