Neighbors express concerns over fires at nearby vacant homes, investigation underway

Posted at 2:01 PM, Dec 12, 2016
and last updated 2018-07-24 21:30:35-04

Temple residents are concerned after several fires have occurred at two vacant houses within the past two years. Both houses are owned by the same person. 

In 2014, Temple firefighters responded to fire-related calls at a house located in 1313 N. 2nd street. The house has since been demolished and it is a vacant lot.

In 2016, the house next door, which had no electricity, caught fire twice within the last month. The latest fire at 1311 N. 2nd Street, on Dec. 8 destroyed the vacant home, according to the Temple Fire Department. 

"It's hard to imagine that an empty house with no electricity, no gas would catch fire by itself so I would like to an investigation to be done to find out if someone is randomly setting fires or how the fire started," Neighbor Karen Heidelberger said.

The city bulldozed that property soon after the fire due to safety hazard concerns. The city could remove the rubble left at the property at the owner's expense, with the owner's permission. If the owner doesn't allow it, she will be cited and be required to clean up. In that case, the issue would have to go through the court system.  

Karen Heidelberger who recently moved to the neighborhood was home when the latest fire occurred. 

"I was really surprised and concerned either that someone in the neighborhood was doing that or for some reason someone may want to get rid of the home and that it could damage or hurt the nearby neighbors' homes," Heidelberger said.

Temple Fire Department Public Information Officer, Thomas Pechal, said it is unusual to have six fires at two properties.

"Anytime you have a fire, you have to look at the cause of it and if you have two homes next to each that would give one cause of concern," Pechal said.

He advises people who own vacant properties to work on the upkeep of those houses. 

"Keep the yard clean, keep the grass cut, leave the lights on at night. Give it the appearance someone is living at the home," Pechal said.

He added, if neighbors see any suspicious activity, they are advised to contact the fire department or police. 

The cause of those fires remain under investigation.  If you have any information, you are advised to call 254-298-5955.

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