(KCTV) -- A homeless man said he was hosed down by Kansas City firefighters during frigid New Year’s temperatures and left to freeze.
The incident happened under a bridge near 20th and Oak on New Year’s Day around 2 a.m., when the temperature was around 21 degrees with a wind chill of 10.
The homeless man, whose name is PJ, told KCTV5 he had a campfire under the bridge. He said firefighters came up with a hose to put it out.
Despite offering to extinguish the campfire himself, PJ said the firefighters sprayed the fire, soaking him as well.
“All of the sudden the hose opened up,” he recalled. “The fire was doused, I was doused, clothes back there were doused."
Homeless advocate Lacey Langford started the public outcry over the incident after finding PJ later on New Year’s Day “still frozen in his clothes.”
She filed a formal complaint with the Kansas City Fire Department and posted about it on social media.
“They left him, in my opinion, for dead in 19-degree weather soaking wet,” Langford said.
KCFD officials admit the incident happened, explaining that they were just trying to put out an illegal burn fire and would never intentionally douse a homeless person.
“We would never do anything to make their lives harder than they already are,” Deputy Fire Chief Jimmy Walker explained.
Walked noted the incident is under investigation and the crews involved are being questioned. He also added a fire at a homeless camp last February caused $2 million in damages to a bridge.
Update: On Friday, Jan. 4, the KCFD released the following statement:
"The Kansas City Fire Department has concluded its investigation into an incident underneath a bridge just west of 20th and Locust Streets on Tuesday, Jan. 1. As previously reported, firefighters extinguished the fire with a small onboard line, and their work was limited to extinguishing an illegal burn in a dangerous location.
The inquiry finds no violations of KCFD policies or expectations on the part of the firefighters who responded, and that they did not spray any persons with water. One man at the scene was asked to move aside while firefighters put out the fire. Personal property became wet while the fire was extinguished, as generally happens while extinguishing a fire.
KCFD management, with union representation present, separately interviewed each firefighter who responded to the fire. Police officers who had been at the scene confirmed the KCFD account of the events.
KCFD personnel work to protect all citizens in need, including and especially the homeless.
We also try to educate people about the danger and potential harm of these types of fires. Beardsley Road has been closed since November from damage caused by a fire in a homeless encampment beneath a bridge. In January of 2018, a homeless person died in a fire at an encampment not far from the current location. Accordingly, when informed of illegal burning at such locations, we take action as necessary to extinguish the fire and abate the threat to life, property and infrastructure."