A fire authorities say was started by transients burned a home near Blackstone and Shields avenues Thursday morning, turning next-door neighbors’ fears into reality.
The blaze erupted about 9 a.m. on East Simpson Avenue near North Clark Street. Battalion Chief Lawrence French said it appeared to start next to an interior wall.
A neighbor reported the blaze and firefighters responded with three engines, two ladder trucks and 19 personnel. French said the home was known to be used by squatters who frequently move in and out, but exactly how the blaze started is under investigation.
“It could have been something as simple as a candle,” he said.
Fire was something Sylvia Martinez and Patricio Uribe, who live next door, have been concerned about for months. They live with Martinez’s 74-year-old father, Miguel, who is partially paralyzed from a stroke.
“We’re worried someone is going to start a fire and my dad isn’t going to be able to get out,” Martinez said. “We’ve been calling that (house) in (to the city) for months.”
“I’ve been running them out of there,” Uribe said. “They (the city) came and boarded it up, and somehow they got back in. I walked in there one time and it smelled like weed and everything. I called the cops. I called the city. … What more can I do?
“(Police) say they can’t walk in because they need a search warrant.”
Said Martinez: “They have rights! And they are destroying the property! I hear them banging and hitting things. We call it in, call it in. We just got tired of calling.”