Homeless breaking into vacant homes starting fires, creating a strain on resources

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It’s a growing problem for Fresno firefighters.The department is dealing with an increase in vacant home fires by the homeless and it’s causing a stress on resources.

Figures requested by CBS47 from the Fresno Fire Department show since January 1st of 2019, there have been 39 fires to vacant buildings.
But of those 34 have been caused by the homeless.

The fires have done 1.2 million dollars in damage.

“Sometimes I’m scared to even drive down this street because of them. I was just threatened a couple of weeks ago,” says Rebecca Campos.

She lives right next door to a home on San Pablo and Thomas, which caught fire.

She says everyday she would see homeless use the vacant home as shelter.

CBS47 caught up with fire investigator Jay Tracy at a homeless house fire which broke out last week.

Tracy says vacant homes pose a greater risk for firefighters since many are not maintained, especially if the structure has already sustained a previous fire.

Tracy says, “Any fire that we see is dangerous is our fire fighters but these vacant homes, sometimes the homes are very well secured, windows and doors might be blocked, that really prevent normal means of egress for a firefighter. It poses a few more challenges if we need to get out of the house real quick.”

Tracy says these type of fires also have a direct impact on resources through out the city, especially if there are several being fought at the same time.

Fresno city staff tells CBS47 it knows there are neglected properties, but says the process to enforce takes time.

Staff say that’s why it established the rental housing registry to inspect properties and the city’s anti slumlord enforcement team which focuses on the worst offenders with legal options.

But we as a community can do our part, and if we see homeless using a vacant home, use the FreGo app to report the issue directly to code enforcement.

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