Indy Officials Seek Answers in Vacant Home Fires

INDIANAPOLIS --

Indianapolis firefighters said it's unclear if the city's recent string of vacant house fires were intentionally set or caused by someone homeless trying to stay warm.

Investigators said the vacant house fires are becoming more common as the weather gets colder and police are partnering with the public to put an end to the dangerous problem, RTV6's Chance Walser reported.

Firefighters were dispatched to a burning south side home last weekend after getting a call from a neighbor that a known homeless person might have been inside.

"It's hard to know because he doesn’t stay there all the time. He'll pop in and out, you know, periodically," resident James Kissee said.

Firefighters said they searched the home but did not find anyone. The blaze marked the third house fire in the city in just the past two weeks.

On Nov. 26 an empty east side apartment complex was destroyed by fire.

"The building was unoccupied. There are some squatters that appear to have taken up residence in the building,” Indianapolis Fire Department spokeswoman Rita Burris said.

Two weeks later, another vacant house on the east side caught fire. Burris said she doesn’t suspect the fires to be related, but in all three cases either police or neighbors reported saw a person or people coming in and out.

"They may seek out vacant houses or vacant buildings to go into to get out of the weather,” Indianapolis police spokeswoman Catherine Cummings said.

According to firefighters, it's a matter of safety for those who battle the blazes, and those who may just be trying to seek shelter.

Police said it's important for neighbors to be vigilant and to report suspicious activity to authorities.

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