Early Monday morning the Topeka Fire Department responded to a building fire believed to have been set intentionally. The estimated damage? $0.
That’s because this isn’t the first, second, or third time this building has caught fire this year.
According to the TFD, the abandoned house at 1600 SW Clay Street has caught fire four times since July.
This time of year is already rough for fire departments.
“I don’t want to say when winter hits we get more arsons involving vacant structures, but we do get more fires involving structures in general house fires, commercial fires, everything,” Topeka Fire Public Education Officer Alan Stahl said.
With no one living there, vacant house fires can be even worse for firefighters. Often, someone is around when a fire breaks out and they’re able to call it in before things get bad. When the building is abandoned however, the fire is able to build up before the emergency responders have a chance to arrive.
“Fighting a fire in a vacant structure is the most dangerous thing that we do on the job. As a firefighter going into those buildings you’re concerned about a lot of hazards, is the building safe is there holes in the floor, what’s been torn out, what am I going to find,” Stahl said.
While it’s tempting to put blame on the city for these incidents, Stahl says the responsibility lies on owners of these properties, to make sure the building is secured.
“Preventing fires and other crimes in vacant structures is really a community approach. We need our neighbors to be vigilant, to know what structures are vacant and our owners to take responsibility for those structures and secure those structures,” Stahl said.
Stahl also says if community members have doorbell surveillance footage or anything to shed light on the investigation, now is the time. Of course, keep an eye out in your own neighborhood, and call 911 if you see a fire break out.