Unoccupied houses seeing an increase in fires

Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:27 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - According to the Wichita Falls Fire Department, there were four structure fires confirmed to be caused by vagrants last month.

Wichita Falls Fire Marshall, Cody Melton, said it’s more common in the winter months when people, who WFFD refers to as vagrants, are trying to stay warm.

Melton said the number of fires increases when cold fronts come into the area or from someone trying to cook inside an unoccupied home.

“It’s not fair to neighbors who live beside those houses that continually burn cause it could cause an issue for them in their house. Not to mention the firefighters, we put ourselves at much greater risk when we go continuously to these places,” Melton said.

When these fires are started in vacant homes without utilities, the damage is not the full responsibility of the vagrants.

City ordinance requires homeowners to secure their property, such as boarding up windows. If the property has some kind of accessible entryway, the homeowner can be fined up to $2,000.

“It’s tough for the fire department to have to run a lot of these when those are certainly preventable fires, and so the land owner, the homeowner, whoever’s name is on the deed will get fined, they’ll get code enforcement tickets. What happens is your fine totals start to go up and then you get to a warrant level and the municipal court will issue a warrant for your arrest,” Wichita Falls Public Information Officer, Chris Horgen said.