Amarillo Fire Department warning public of homeless-caused fires

Local News

AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Fire Department wants to bring awareness to an issue they have been facing this year, homeless and transients causing fires in abandoned buildings.

“This is a big problem for our community, not just for the fire department but it puts everybody in danger,” said Jeff Justus, Amarillo Fire Department Community Liaison.

That problem that Justus is referring to is fires caused by homeless people.

“We’ve had a lot more homeless fires in the last year or two that we have noticed. In fact, the fire marshal’s office has started keeping tabs on that. Since April 1st of this year, we’ve had 45 homeless-caused fires,” said Justus.

But Justus said not all of them are the fires the homeless community causes by trying to keep themselves warm in abandoned buildings when the temperatures drop.

“Out of the 45, 11 have been ruled arson. Some of them are being set intentionally,” said Justus.

Justus said one of the abandoned buildings that’s caused the department problems in that particular area is the old BSA hospital.

“We’ve had two fires here in just the last couple of months and that presents big issues for our firefighters. Although there was no one in there at the time of the fire, we know that there are homeless people coming in and out of the building. You can see them if you just drive around and look at any given time. But our firefighters have to go inside the building to put the fire out and that puts them in danger,” said Justus.

So what does Justus think property owners can do to try and prevent these fires from happening?

“Board up their buildings, post no trespassing signs but even that’s not a complete deterrent. You need to patrol your property. Don’t abandon your property if it is abandoned. So make sure you watch over it constantly and keep it secure,” said Justus.

Justus said what makes it an even more frustrating issue is that there are plenty of shelters in town to house the homeless but not all of them want to be sheltered.

To hear more about what the city of Amarillo is doing to help out with their “Coming Home” program, click here.

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