Investigation Ongoing for Two Vacant Home Fires

Penny Breitkreutz was just putting one of her sons to bed when she saw the flames.

"My husband walked outside and then immediately walked back in and said 'grab the phone, the house next door is on fire'," said Breitkreutz. "I was shocked because the house is empty."

The home, located on South Street in Leoni Township, was one of two vacant homes in Jackson County to catch fire overnight, Thursday and Friday. The other was in Summit Township.

Firefighters are calling the Leoni Township fire a complete loss. They are also calling it suspicious.

"This was a vacant residence. We had problems with break-ins there and actually had found a meth lab operation there in the past so we are looking, potentially, at an arson fire or meth lab explosion," said Jon Johnston, Deputy Director of Blackman-Leoni Public Safety.

While Johnston says this is the first time a vacant home has caught fire in Leoni Township, the City of Jackson has had this problem for a while.

"I would say in the city, we have had four in the last month," said Jackson Deputy Fire Chief, David Wooden.

Vacant house fires can be more dangerous for firefighters than average house fires because of the uncertainty of the strength of the structure. There are also other unknowns, like whether or not the utilities are on.

Wooden says there are a number of reasons vacant homes catch fire, but often enough, they are started by people.

"It is an invitation for kids to get into trouble, vagrants to take shelter, criminal activity to take refuge there," said Wooden.

Wooden also says Jackson is seeing roughly the same amount of vacant house fires as last, but efforts to demolish vacant homes should help fight the problem.


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