Neighborhood Pleading for Help Over Vacant Building Fires
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Authorities in Kansas City, Missouri, are investigating after fires damaged at least seven vacant buildings within a few blocks of each other over the last month, leaving a neighborhood on edge.
The fires – all deliberately set – have all happened in the Oak Park neighborhood. The latest fire happened on early Sunday morning at a vacant apartment building near 38th and Brooklyn.
Neighborhood resident Marcus Lewis says that he awoke around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday morning to see flames shooting through the roof of the building next door. He says that with the freezing temperatures, homeless people may have gotten inside to seek shelter from the cold.
“I don’t know if the city should go into knocking down these older buildings. I don’t know if they should help the homeless. Maybe a little of both would help,” said Lewis.
A few blocks away, near 40th and South Benton, a neighbor saw two people go inside the building shortly before it too burst into flames – the third such fire in the neighborhood to that point since the beginning of September.
“We caught two kids in my mom’s house the other day, which was vacant,” said Pat Clarke. “When we got here the kids ran out the back door. We caught them. But when I walked through the house, the back room was set on fire.”
Whether the cause of the fires are homeless people trying to stay warm or teens starting fires for kicks, neighborhood leaders say that there are too many empty buildings and not enough eyes watching over them.
“More natural observation and people getting involved, not just sitting back watching what’s happening,” said State Rep. Brandon Ellington. “I think that would change the dynamics of what’s going on.”