It’s a problem plaguing Rockford, vacant home fires. The city is working to tear the abandoned homes down before they catch fire, but many of them are still going up in flames.
“We’re looking at a pretty typical year for the City of Rockford for fires,” said Rockford Fire Department Arson Investigator Michael Schnaper. By this time in 2017, Rockford had 22 vacant house fires. Schnaper says this year is on pace to match that number. “By and large a lot of the fires we see set may follow similar patters,” says Schnaper. “They follow a similar population like squatters and such.” According to the most recent data from the Rockford Fire Department, there has been an overall increase in structure fires. There were 97 last May. This May there were 124. Some of those happened at vacant homes.
“It scared me,” said Rockford Resident Junior. “I got a kid on the way, baby on the way. I don’t want my [baby’s mother] to get hurt, my nieces, nephews, my little cousins.” Junior lives near what once was a vacant home on Kishwaukee Street. It burned down on Tuesday, crews demolished what was left. Residents who live near by say they want abandoned homes to come down before they end up in flames. “They just need to tear down all these vacant houses so we don’t have to worry about [any] of that,” said Junior.
“I think it should just get torn down before that happens honestly,” said Ashley Agnew. She lives near 13th Street and !3th Avenue, where another vacant home burned down in February. She says it’s concerning. “If someone sets it in fire then a lot of other lives and homes are going to be [at] risk as well.”
Rockford Fire Department says they hope to lower the number of vacant home fires with help from the public. Schnaper says if you see something, say something. “People going in and out of the houses is a big thing, so [it’s] kind of community awareness.”
The non-emergency number to report suspicious activity is 815-966-2900.