Two vacant Rockford homes go up in flames just hours and a few miles apart. The first started around 2:30 am in the 1400 block of 7th Avenue.
Less than three hours later and two miles south a second fire took place at a house in the 3100 block of 8th street.
The smell of burning debris lingered in the air as Doug Long looked on at the piles of burned wood and mangled siding that once made up the house he grew up in.
“I was born in the house in 1956 and we moved out in 1968 then had it as a rental.” Said Long.
Both fires were labeled incendiary by fire officials.
“When it comes to the vacant homes, there is not rhyme or reason as to how or why. It’s either intentional or an accident.” Said Rockford Fire Lieutenant John McGee.
McGee adds vacant homes become the target for shelter every year when the weather gets colder.
“When the homeless start seeking shelter they are going to go into some of these homes especially the abandoned properties that nobody’s been taking care of cause they are going to be able to be there for quiet some time without being seen.”
Officials encourage neighbors to speak up if they see activity in vacant buildings, as they play a key role in helping fire officials determine if fires are intentionally set.
“If it’s an accident we have to be able to try and determine that and if its intentional we have to do the same thing and without any witnesses and things going it can be a very difficult task.” said McGee.
Because of the risk of the fire rekindling and the safety of the neighborhood, both properties had to be torn down.
Now two piles of rubble sit in two different neighborhoods, something McGee says could be prevented through teamwork.
“I would just encourage people in their neighborhoods to just be diligent, be aware of the properties that are around them so we can help maybe prevent some of this stuff.”
No one was found in either of the homes and no firemen were hurt.
Fire officials say it’s too early to determine how the fires started but do not believe the fires are related.