Charleston sees spike in vacant house fires

Published: Jan. 5, 2021 at 3:01 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - Less than a week into 2021, the Charleston Fire Department has already responded to five house fires.

“We have had five fires this year and we’ve had seven this past week,” RJ Symns, a fire marshal with Charleston Fire Department said.

Symns said every home or building they’ve responded to was vacant except for one. The fire department rescued a man who was flown to Pittsburgh to be treated in the only occupied house fire in the past week.

“We usually start the year off pretty fast like this year just due to the winter months and it being really cold outside,” Symns said. “But seven in one week, is not normal for us at all.”

West Virginia Health Right officials said in the last four weeks, two of their four properties on Jackson St. in Charleston have caught fire.

“About a month ago, one of the homes, someone kicked in a door again and started a fire in the property (that’s now a vacant lot),” Duke Jordan, the real estate agent who put the acquisition together between West Virginia Health Right and the developer said. “A couple of nights ago, we had the fire in the other home (two doors down) as well.”

Jordan said he has to check on the properties weekly to nail boards back up on windows and screw doors shut.

“As a retired police officer, I know we’re busy and we have empty homes all over this city and once it gets cold there’s a lot of homeless people out here and they’re kicking doors in and they’re doing it to a lot of properties.”

West Virginia Health Right officials said they have now hired a security guard which is something they’ve never done before in their almost 40 years of business. This was a result of the two recent fires.

“It’s a shame and not everybody can afford security guards out here to watch their homes,” Jordan said. “But these houses are so close together that one can spark another. I mean thank goodness we have some great fire services here as well in the City of Charleston.”

Health Right said their security guard will work daily from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to patrol the four properties they have on Jackson St.

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