Kansas City firefighters say they have a new problem on their hands - vacant buildings - more than 40 of which have caught fire. Firefighters say vagrants are a big problem, a problem they are working hard to solve.
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Firefighters say fires in vacant homes are a big problem. Officials say vagrants are often to blame.
"There's an influx every time it chills of folks getting into the structures that are vacant. They're getting there to stay warm," Fire Marshall Floyd Peoples said.
Since October, 42 vacant homes have caught fire in Kansas City. Investigators say vagrants started 15 of the fires, trying to stay warm or cook inside the home. They also said 26 of the fires were intentional.
The last is still under investigation.
Peoples said the problem is worse this year than last.
"We didn't have to put up with all this brutal cold we're having now," Peoples said.
It is frustrating for firefighters and residents alike.
"I heard the fire department say turn on the water," resident Alex Boone said.
There are plenty of boarded up houses where Boone lives, and he and other neighbors worry about fire spreading from the unoccupied homes to the occupied ones.
"Yeah, it makes me sad because it's like we shouldn't have to always deal with this craziness," Maya Boone said.
Between the fires and the copper stripped from the houses, it's tougher and tougher for people to rehab the homes and revitalize the neighborhood.
"By going into a vacant home and trying to stay warm by setting something on fire, it puts them at risk, puts their family at risk, puts the people that live on either side at risk," Peoples said.
Peoples said neighbors can help.
"If that building had been secured, why is it unsecured now? Report it to the city," Peoples recommended.
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