Fire EMS warns property owners of homeless in abandoned homes

Fire EMS warns property owners of homeless in abandoned homes (Image 1)
Fire EMS warns property owners of homeless in abandoned homes (Image 1)

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – Roanoke Fire EMS has investigated two fatal fires at abandoned or vacant structures involving homeless persons.

Some of the homeless choose not to stay in shelters like the Rescue Mission.

Roanoke Rescue Mission CEO Joy Sylvester Johnson says the main reason staying in a shelter isn’t someone’s number-one choice is the shelter’s weapon, drug, and alcohol free policy.

“I think it’s really sad when people choose to remain in addiction or hold on to the bottle or drugs and refuse shelter especially in season when the weather is cold,” says Sylvester Johnson.

The Rescue Mission always has space available and emergency mats in case it reaches capacity. However some homeless have chosen an alternative like abandoned or vacant homes.

WSLS 10 reporter Ananda Rochita took a look at recent incidents. Last December, Roanoke police found the body of a homeless person staying in a vacant home. Investigators found the house was intentionally set on fire.

In February, one person was killed and two others injured in an abandoned building on Walnut Avenue. The case is under investigation, but officials say someone set a fire inside, most likely to stay warm.

“When you’re dealing with putting a fire inside a building it’s dangerous,” says Chief David Hoback of Roanoke Fire EMS. 

Chief Hoback says not only are lives lost but buildings destroyed. He says people should check in on their properties frequently.

“It’s not something you do one time it’s consistent that you check every week or once every two weeks,” says Chief Hoback.

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