Rash of vacant house fires spark warning from Dayton Fire Chief

Local News

The Dayton Fire Department is issuing a warning to arsonists after a recent rash of vacant house fires.

At this time last year, there were nearly double the amount of vacant house fires. Fire Chief Jeff Payne says the decrease could be due to less arsonists on the streets, but regardless of the decrease Chief Payne says he wants to keep it that way and warns anyone attempting arson will be prosecuted to the fullest extent.

“Arsonists are damaging,” Chief Payne said. “This community.”

Strong words came from Chief Payne Wednesday night after a massive neighborhood blaze. Flames destroyed 2 vacant houses and one family’s home in the Five Oaks neighborhood in Dayton. The fire is ruled suspicious.

“The people starting the fires,” Chief Payne said. “They need to think about the community and the public impact.”

According to data from the Dayton Fire Department, from January to March of this year there’s been 9 vacant structure fires. During those 3 months last year, there were 17. In 2016, there were 21 vacant house fires.

As Chief Payne explains vacant structure fires are typically started by arsonists or transients trying to keep warm.

“You may hurt somebody,” Chief Payne said. “It’s a blight on the community. It’s damaging those peoples home they live in and they have to look at that. Other people have to look at that. It takes an emotional toll on them. It could take a physical tool.”

Saturday, a vacant house went up in flames on Loraine Avenue in Dayton. A 911 caller reported seeing two teen girls run from the home with a backpack.

Chief Payne says it’s extremely difficult to prosecute arsonists because it’s tough to obtain credible evidence. That’s why he says it’s up to the community to help out.

“Communities need to get involved,” Chief Payne said. “That’s the only way we are going to stop these fires and reduce the community risk and community blight.”

Chief Payne is asking anyone with information on the on the recent rash of fires to call the fire department’s tip hotline at 937-333-TIPS.

Also, he says if you witness a vacant house fire do your best take pictures or videos of suspects as that could be critical in prosecuting them.

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