INDIANAPOLIS — Indianapolis firefighters have been responding to more fires at abandoned properties and they say many of those fires were deliberately set.
These buildings are causing a safety risk for first responders.
IFD says oftentimes the structure of these buildings are already compromised form previous fires and they're not upkept like a traditional building.
"We still have to treat is as though there is someone in the home. So the firefighters do enter the structure to search for folks, and that's when it becomes very risky for us," IFD Commander Vernon Garard said.
Garard is the commander of the investigations division at the department.
He says firefighters will know where the abandon properties are in their response area. That will allow them to be better prepared when responding.
"We tend to have an uptick in the colder months. People seeking shelter, warming fires. Things of that nature within these abandon buildings," Garard said.
IFD says they are seeing investigating more fires in Indianapolis this year.
In 2023, the IFD has had 742 working fires.
IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Unit:
- Investigated 435 of these fires
- Ruled 193 of these fires incendiary
- 84 of the fires were in vacant or abandoned structures
- Made 21 arrests for the crime of Arson
In 2022, the IFD had 850 working fires
IFD/IMPD Fire Investigations Unit:
- Investigated 432 of those fires
- Ruled 151 of these fires incendiary
- 80 of the fires were in vacant or abandoned structures
- Made 19 arrests for the crime of Arson
IFD says Friday is the most common day for a fire, with Monday following that.
They also respond to more fires between midnight at 8 a.m.
The rise in abandon home fires has many neighbors frustrated.
"I work over 60 hours a week, I pay a lot of money here. They bust through the doors, busted every window out of the house," Indianapolis resident Joshua Fender said.
Fender lives next door to the most recent arson fire IFD has investigated.
"Total disregard for neighbor and anyone or anything in the community. It's just getting out of control," Fender said.
Crews were called to the 1300 block of N. Olney Street around 7:45 a.m. Wednesday for a vacant double residence fire.
Court documents detail several witnesses told police a man, who had been staying in the vacant home, was seen walking out of it when it was on fire.
Throughout the investigation and firefight, the property showed signs of squatters and had numerous holes in the floors of the home.
Members of the community helped IFD and IMPD find the person responsible for the fire after an investigation found the fire to have started on purpose.
The man, who is not yet formally charged, faces preliminary charges of Arson, Battery and Criminal Mischief.
"Say something. That's probably the best thing I could have done in this situation, and I didn't and here we have this. Definitely say something," Fender said.
IFD numbers show there have been a number of vacant home fires in recent years.
- 2023: 83 (as of 12/14)
- 2022: 80
- 2021: 81
- 2020: 112
Just last month two firefighters were hurt after responding to a fire at an abandoned property.
The Department of Business and Neighborhood Services keeps track of abandoned properties around the city.
They say residents should report unsafe conditions at vacant structures to the Mayor's Action Center using RequestIndy.
DBNS will investigate the property and determine whether a vacant board order, a repair order, or a demolition order is warranted.
If the property is occupied, they should call the Marion County Health Department/Health and Hospital Corporation: 317-221-2150.
DBSN said they currently have more than 2,000 cases open as of 11/21.
- 341 demolition cases
- 1562 repair cases
- 238 vacant board order cases
"Please note that it's likely some structures have both a vacant board order and a demolition or repair order, so the above figures are an estimate and they do not represent a direct 1:1 ratio of the number of unsafe/abandoned structures we're addressing," DBNS said.
DBNS says they have demolished 375 structures since 2017 and 28 are already set to be demolished in 2024.