Squatters are causing fires in abandoned homes around the city according to Amarillo Fire Department.
“When it gets cold, the people are looking for a way to stay home, the problem is they are entering homes unlawfully without owners consent, they are going inside to get out of the cold and they are setting fires to stay warm because these homes don’t have electricity run to them,” said Captain Kyle Joy with AFD.
Captain Joy tells us since October when the cold weather hit, more than 20 abandoned homes have had fires.
He says in many cases, the damage is extensive.
“We’ve had instances where they have set campfires on a hardwood floor and you can imagine the destruction that takes place afterward.”
The Amarillo Fire Marshals Office is actively trying to stop the problem by making sure they have a presence in the area, but Joy tells us it is keeping fire marshals from doing their other duties.
“The fire marshals office is actively patrolling at night some of the known areas that these squatters are entering homes and they are enforcing the law appropriately, the problem with that is it taxes city resources,” added Joy.
Joy says squatters getting into abandoned homes and starting fires is also a safety concern for the squatters themselves and the fire department.
“Its a problem for neighboring homes, it is also a danger for firefighters, when we respond to these structures, we don’t know if there are people inside, we also don’t know how many people are inside, that creates a dangerous situation for us, because out primary concern is life safety,” said Joy.
Joy says if you know of an abandoned home in your neighborhood where squatters are getting in, contact the Amarillo Police Department or Amarillo Fire Marshals Office.