The Jacksonville Fire Department is asking residents to pay attention to vacant properties in their neighborhoods after yet another vacant home was gutted by fire Sunday morning.
Fire crews were dispatched to a structure fire in a single-family home located at 320 Farrell Street at 7:22 yesterday morning. Smoke and fire were visible coming from picture windows in the front of the home when fire crews arrived at 7:24 am.
Jacksonville Fire Chief Doug Sills says crews were able to knock down the fire and gain entry to the structure soon after arriving, and no one was inside the home at the time. He says the home has not been occupied in quite some time and the cause of the fire has been deemed suspicious in nature and is under investigation.
“We are led to believe that the structure has been vacant for the last year with no power. Due to that fact and the area of origin where the fire was discovered at, we called in JPD to investigate along with the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
It’s still a pending investigation. Somebody was witnessed leaving the home at approximately ten minutes after 7:00 am. Smoke was seen shortly thereafter which is leading us to believe based off of that evidence, that this was an intentionally set fire.”
Sills says his department is still trying to determine the legal owner of the property as the name they have on record is not the same as the name listed on the tax bill, and the taxes for the property have been sold. Sills says city officials are asking residents to keep an eye out for suspicious activity in their neighborhoods.
“If you have a vacant structure in your neighborhood please keep an eye on it, comings, goings, things like that. Reach out to JPD if you see people hanging around that you know shouldn’t be there. Be a little proactive and report it so we can start investigating and watching those structures.
In working with code officials upstairs in community development and code enforcement, we have a list of vacant structures right now in Jacksonville that we are going around and looking at and making sure that these properties are secured. This property in question on Sunday morning was not secured, the front door was unlocked. From what we understand there has been a lot of people in and out of the house in the last several weeks and months.”
According to an incident report, the listed owner says her nephew has come in and out of the home with friends without her permission. A Jacksonville Police officer acquired video from a neighbor showing an individual entering the structure at 7:00 am and then coming out the front door at 7:07 with smoke and fire showing on the video approximately two minutes later.
The cause of the fire was undetermined during the initial investigation. Sills says he has not been informed of any updates to similar fires in vacant structures that have occurred and remain under investigation.
The fire Sunday morning is just the latest in a string of fires that have occurred in vacant houses over the last year. On March 15th, a house burned to the ground at the corner of Farrell and Beesley Streets. Ten days later another vacant home caught fire at 603 North Fayette.
Two adjacent homes in the 700 block of North Main Street burned in separate incidents in May and November of last year. In each case, no electric or gas service was active to the properties and each had been vacant for a length of time before they caught fire.
Jacksonville Fire and Police officials are asking the public to keep an eye on any vacant properties in their area and report any suspicious activity.