Abandoned Building Fire Kills 2 Rockford Homeless

- ROCKFORD - All that remains of 424 Knowlton Street are pieces of charred debris. The abandoned home went up in flames just after midnight on Monday.

Rockford Fire Chief Derek Bergsten said his team responded to the fire after a neighbor called the Rockford 911 center. “They encountered heavy fire, and smoke, on the first and second floors mainly in the rear of the building. They did realize that it was a vacant structure.”

Although the home appeared to be abandoned, it was occupied, because inside of the property were 2 homeless men. “An individual came up to our fire fighters and said that he had been living in this vacant structure, and possibly two of his friends were still inside.” said Bergsten.

When the Rockford Fire Department searched the home they found 59-year-old Thomas Porter, and 47-year-old David Caperson, both men died of smoke inhalation. “At that time, we were able to locate the 2 individuals which had already succumbed to the flames and they were removed and transported by the coroner for further examination” said Bergsten.

Chuck Thom, who slept in the building just a few nights before said he was friends with the Porter and Caperson and knows that he could have been in their shoes.  “I say it could have been me, because I was just over here like two days ago.”

With nearly 5,000 addresses in the Rockford area listed as vacant by the postal service, the homeless have a lot to choose from. Jeremy Holliman said he does not have to look far for an abandoned house. “Out of ten homes on the block, there is going to be at least 4 homes abandoned, at least four.” said

Not only do they hurt neighborhoods but they're very dangerous for neighbors and firefighters alike but the city faces major hurdles to tearing them down.

Linda McNeeley, a Rockford Alderwoman said she wants the buildings to be torn downm but it is more complicated than that.  “I really wish we did have enough money to tear them down, and I really wish we could legally just go in and tear them down, but most certainly we can not do that.”

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