HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) — After two vacant homes in Huntington were the scenes of fires, worries about more vacant homes catching fire is spreading in area neighborhoods.
People in the area say Tuesday wasn’t the first time the homes on 14th Street caught fire. There were several other incidents in the past week, according to the fire marshal, and one back in August that is being investigated as arson.
Now, those homes are to be torn down.
“They’ve become frequented by trespassers. In the last six days, we’ve had multiple incidents that have escalated to what happened yesterday. Because of the damage, they’re collapsing, they’re creating a public nuisance and an imminent safety hazard,” says Mat Winters, fire marshal for the Huntington Fire Department.
Winters says the evidence points to the fires being caused by trespassers in the homes trying to stay warm.
“This is not uncommon in vacant homes. Typically we’ll find an old grill or a metal bucket and they’ll start a warming fire. For lack of better terms, they’re trying to survive but they’re creating very dangerous situation when they do this,” Winters says.
Neighbors in the area tell 13 News they’re glad the homes are coming down, but worry what may happen as the temperatures drop again.
“Everybody trying to find a place of shelter, trying to stay warm and they’re gonna find another abandoned home to live in. In the long run, we’re gonna see more fires in the neighborhood from the abandoned homes,” says Huntington resident Tyrone Nelson.
A spokesperson for the city says they are continuing their efforts to demolish unsafe abandoned and vacant buildings. The unsafe building commission meets every month to assess these situations as they crop up.
The two homes affected by Tuesday’s fire are being tested for asbestos. The fire marshal says if all goes to plan, they are scheduled to come down Thursday. Once begun, the demolition process is expected to last two to four days.