Kansas City’s Historic Northeast residents frustrated by frequent fires in abandoned homes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- There's been a major turn-around around this year for Kansas City's Historic Northeast neighborhood.

Last year, the area saw 11 murders. So far this year, there have been none. While that's incredibly encouraging, some neighbors are still frustrated about a black-eye that remains.

On a small stretch of Askew Avenue, sit several abandoned homes. The one that used to be near the corner at Smart Avenue burned Friday for at least the third time.

"We're really concerned, obviously, about first responders, the fire department. Having to come out and put out fires at abandoned homes is not what we want them doing," said John Baccala, spokesperson for Kansas City's Neighborhoods and Housing Services Department.

And it's not just a single lot that's a problem. Neighbors told FOX4 there have been more than a half dozen abandoned home fires at properties around the Historic Northeast recently.

"Instead of the homeless being on the streets, they get into the abandoned home to live, start a fire, and that's been a big problem," one neighbor said.

That neighbor, who didn't want to be identified, said it's gotten down right scary. Last month, the house that sits next to his also caught fire and busted windows on his home.

"For me, there's a lot of danger because I have three kids, one girl and two boys. I'm nervous because these things keep happening," he said.

The city said abandoned homes are a big problem, especially in the urban core. In the Northeast alone, there are 155 properties registered as vacant, a number that could be much higher if all abandoned homes were on the list.

"People know if somebody's supposed to be in that house or not. And if they suspect there's a vagrant or homeless living in these vacant properties, they need to call 311 so we can come out and secure the property. And so we can call police immediately, so they in essence can get the trespassers out of that house," Baccala said.

And in light of the recent fires, police want to hear about any suspicious activity so they can work to prevent future problems before anyone is seriously hurt by fires or other crimes in abandoned homes.

"We have rights, too, and our taxes need to go more towards fixing this part of the city," the neighbor said.

Police are continuing to investigate the recent fires and are encouraging anyone who may have video or pictures of suspicious activity to report it.