KC firefighters stay busy battling 3 fires in same block - KCTV5

UPDATE

Kansas City firefighters stay busy battling 3 fires in same block

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Kansas City Fire Department Chief Paul Berardi said crews responded shortly before 2:30 p.m. to the 3800 block of E. 10th Terrace. (KCFD Chief Paul Berardi/Twitter) Kansas City Fire Department Chief Paul Berardi said crews responded shortly before 2:30 p.m. to the 3800 block of E. 10th Terrace. (KCFD Chief Paul Berardi/Twitter)
(Alice Barr/KCTV5) (Alice Barr/KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Firefighters were busy Thursday afternoon after battling three vacant house fires in the same block.

Investigators think they may all be suspicious.

Kansas City Fire Department Chief Paul Berardi said crews responded shortly before 2:30 p.m. to the 3800 block of East 10th Terrace.

One happened at East 10th Terrace and Cleveland Avenue. The others were just blocks apart with one at East Ninth Street and Cleveland Avenue and East 10th and Myrtle Avenue. They were all spotted shortly after 1:45 p.m.

A fire department spokesman said they're not ready to call it arson, but the squad is investigating now. They did say it is suspicious since all fires broke out at vacant homes that wouldn't have running electricity or other normal means fires start.

Neighbors said it's an all-too-common sight and the charred mess it leaves behind only hurts the neighborhood's image. They said there's also the risk of fire jumping from one vacant house to an occupied one next door.

A neighbor to the house on Myrtle Avenue said he used a garden hose to help douse off the home next door to keep the flames from spreading. A favorable wind also helped.

"I was outside and I hear the neighbors yell 'clear the street, clear the street, fire' so I ran clean from behind the house up and I saw the smoke billowing up. So immediately I thought 'fire, hose, let's douse it.' It's about an arm's width between houses," Jacob Mayer said.

Firefighters had all three blazes under control within about two hours. No injuries have been reported. They said even though the houses were vacant, they take the fires seriously because of the risk to other homes as well as what they have to undergo.

Fire trucks cleared the scene shortly after 4 p.m., but investigators remained. They are looking into arson as a possible cause.

Chopper 5 flew over the scene and showed at least one man in handcuffs. Authorities took the man in for questioning after someone spotted him leaving one of the burning homes.

"Everybody on this block would love to see these houses gone," said Ernest Atencio, saying the boarded-up homes are too inviting for squatters. "It's knocking the value down on my house and around the neighborhood, and we're getting tired of it."

He said he's been trying to get the city to tear down the vacant house next to his for years, and the fire will now make that possible.

Mayer has an urban farm. He believes getting rid of the vacant homes will help the neighborhood recover from blight. He said more need to take pride in their yards and homes.

"I fixed this place up," he said. "I mean it ain't fantastic, but it looks good. And that's what we want over here."

Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez said the city has thousands of vacant homes, and only enough money to demolish a few hundred every year. He said burned homes are priorities especially when they become dangerous.

KCTV5's DeAnn Smith contributed to this report.

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