EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- Homelessness is a challenge year round but when the temperatures drop in winter, those without a home look for other ways to stay warm. The Evansville Fire Department says the amount of vacant home fires rises over the winter months.
“This is not just an Evansville thing, I mean this is a nationwide thing all over the country. Fire departments are responding to fires caused by homeless activity,” says Mike Larson, the Evansville Fire Department Division Chief.
Between October 2022 and now, Chief Larson says they have responded to 10 to 15 accidental fires at abandoned buildings.
“Some of the people that are doing this are not doing it initially. They are just inside out of the cold, trying to keep warm,” Chief Larson says. “There was no intent to burn the building down. They think they put the fire out whenever they were done when they were trying to cook or keep warm or something.”
As homeless numbers continue to rise, Aurora, a homeless shelter in Evansville says the trend will likely continue.
“A lot of those on the street are in survival mode… the basic needs of warmth and shelter are not being met. We had a lady that lost many of her fingers and toes to frostbite. She had to have them removed surgically removed. That is what many people are trying to avoid,” says Danette Romines, the Program Director at Aurora.
The most recent one was last weekend at a house in the 800 block of North Elliot Street in Evansville. Firefighters saw flames shooting out of the window when they arrived. No injuries were reported.