A little more than a week after the most recent suspicious vacant house fire occurred in Jacksonville, another in the same area burned early Sunday morning.
The Jacksonville and South Jacksonville Fire Departments were dispatched to a confirmed structure fire in a two-story house at 503 North Church Street at 5:24 am Sunday.
Jacksonville Fire Department Chief Doug Sills says the first floor had heavy fire involvement adjacent to the main entryway when crews arrived on scene. The blaze caused significant damage to both the first and second floors of the house.
Sills says although utilities were hooked up to the structure, this fire fits the pattern of what has become an ongoing string of arson fires in the north and eastern section of the city.
“Currently we have notified the State Fire Marshal because this was a vacant structure but it appears to be under remodeling. We had found evidence there again on scene that has led us to believe this is another arson case in this neighborhood.”
Sills says crews were on scene for approximately two hours this morning and no one was injured in the blaze. It’s the latest in a string of suspicious fires dating back to early 2021.
Just over one week ago on Friday, July 14th, firefighters were called to what is commonly referred to as the old Capps House, which sits in eye shot of this morning’s fire at 606 North Church Street. It was the second time in as many months that house caught fire via suspicious means.
Earlier in April, a house one block over on Fayette Street burned for the second time and in September of last year, another vacant house on Fayette burned. Less than two months before that, a vacant house on West Lafayette was heavily damaged by fire just around the corner from the Capps House. In each case, utilities had been shut off long before the fires occurred.
Sills says they are still asking residents to be vigilant and keep a close eye on what goes on in their neighborhood. “Particularly in this area if they have a vacant house or they own a house that is currently vacant, take some steps to secure the structure and keep an eye on it a little more closely. If you’re an out of town owner, maybe contact the neighbors.
Almost get a neighborhood watch going. Look for suspicious activity, people who are in the neighborhood who don’t usually belong there. Again, you know, report all those tips to Crime Stoppers and maybe we can get these things solved and stopped.”
Sills says he’s concerned that someone will eventually be hurt or worse if these arsons continue. “Our fear is that this is going to keep escalating and we hope it doesn’t end with a tragedy. Because this morning this house had an occupied structure to the north side in close proximity. The crews did a great job of containing it to the structure of origin. No damage to the house next door. But there again, it is an occupied structure and things can get out of hand pretty quick, and we don’t want to see anyone get hurt with these type of incidents.
But, it’s going to progress to a point where somebody is going to get hurt, whether it’s one of our guys making entry into one of these vacant structures, or a neighbor, or possibly somebody in a structure that they believe is vacant. It’s just gonna,….it’s getting deadly.”
Anyone with any information on this or any of the other suspicious fires in Jacksonville over the last two years is asked to leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers of Morgan, Scott, and Cass Counties by calling 217-243-7300, online at morganscottcrimestoppers.webs.com, or texting the tip to the word “CRIMES”, that’s the number 274637. The first word of the text tip must be “payout”.