Recent abandoned house fires fueling concern from residents - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Recent abandoned house fires fueling concern from residents

Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
Source: WLBT Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) - Since August, Jackson firefighters have worked more than two house fires a week, on average. Many of those involve dilapidated houses, like the most recent blaze which ripped through a home on Jefferson Street Monday morning.

"I'm constantly calling 311. They said call that number, I'm constantly calling," said resident Velma Rayford. "They just know me now. 'Oh, Mrs. Rayford, this is you."

Rayford said she's dealt with the abandoned houses on her street for more than a decade. For her, it's a safety issue, one where she's had to contact law enforcement.

"I have when people was in the house, coming in, doing whatever they gonna do to the house, I tell them," added Rayford. "There's really nothing they can do about it because it's an abandoned house."

Jackson city spokeswoman Shelia Byrd said they've seen a definite improvement in the number of dilapidated houses being addressed since the city's code enforcement and community improvement divisions were moved under the Jackson Police Department.

Byrd said that move was done to give those officials more backup and authority when investigating code enforcement cases.

Some residents told 3 On Your Side that living so close to the abandoned properties puts them at a greater fire risk.

Is that true?

Since August of this year, 3 On Your Side reported 34 house fires in the Jackson area, including two Monday morning on Jefferson and Liberty streets.

9 of those -- more than 25 percent -- involved abandoned or vacant homes.

That's a less-than-comforting thought for Rayford, who lives right next door to one.

"It's just scary, because then you're thinking that the fire's gonna come closer to your house and catch it on fire, and it's just sad," said Rayford.

However, the impact of this blighted property goes beyond that.

Jackson Chief Fire Investigator Greg Travis said the city's department has limited resources.

When cases involve vacant or abandoned homes, it could take weeks to complete a case because it sometimes takes weeks to even contact the homeowner.

Travis said many cases are ruled undetermined because of the limited resources available to the department.

"It's just sad when you have somebody trying to still keep the neighborhood kind of up to par, and then next door, and then on the end of the street, it's a mess," said Rayford.

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