4 fires in vacant homes alarm Springfield fire chief

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Four fires in four nights, all in vacant properties; firefighters think the recent fires were started when homeless people were inside the buildings, just trying to stay warm.

“We're very fortunate that we didn't end up with two carbon monoxide deaths in this house,” said Fire Chief David Hall.

In one of the four fires, the back door of a vacant house on West Tampa Street was kicked in.

“It gives them a place to shelter in this cold weather,” said Hall.

At least two homeless people were inside, trying to stay out of the elements.

“We see it every year when it gets cold,” the fire chief said.

It's a harsh winter reality but, this season, Hall says there's an uptick.

“You never use any type of unapproved grill or charcoal or anything that is that inside a house. It's just so dangerous,” said Hall.

It’s dangerous for those inside and out. Had this fire gotten out of control, it could've spread to a Head Start center for children.

“What they tried to do is try to run a pipe from there and out where the dryer vent was, and, of course, it was inadequate for something such as that,” the chief said.

Springfield city officials say it impacts us all. Chris Straw, director of Building Development Services, checks every property after a fire.

“Our charge here is the health and safety and welfare of the citizens at large. When you have a vacant piece of property and you've got people that are staying here that shouldn't be staying there, then we try to work with the owner to get this property secured, for the owner’s sake as well as the people who are staying there that shouldn't be staying there, as well as the side effects that often occur when you have that kind of situation ongoing: the activities that come with that, as well as the adjoining neighbors,” said Straw.

“As a community, we have to figure out what is the solution for it,” said Hall. “We're dealing with the effects and we have to get to those root causes on how we get other types of safe housing for the homeless to move into,” said Hall.

It's not a violation to have a vacant property, as long as it's boarded up. If you have a house near you that is vacant and open, that's illegal and should be reported to city officials.