The Suburbanite
  • Where’s the public outcry about fires?

  • The issue: Another fire in vacant Canton house

    Our view: There’s no excuse for residents not sharing everything they know

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  • The issue: Another fire in vacant Canton house
    Our view: There’s no excuse for residents not sharing everything they know
    When Canton’s police chief made a heartfelt but harsh comment last month about the supposed lack of public interest in a rash of shootings, he ended up stirring the pot in a productive way. Maybe Canton’s fire chief could do the same.
    What happened Wednesday morning in a house at 615 Wells Ave. SW put firefighters and others in as much danger as gang warfare puts police and city residents.
    The long-vacant house was a disaster waiting to happen. It was filled with trash and severely damaged, and apparently it was occupied by several squatters, one of whom was injured when he fled the burning house.
    It’s a wonder no firefighters were hurt, given the condition of the house, which included holes in the floor and walls. Next time, they may not be so fortunate.
    There is almost sure to be a next time.
    The Rep’s story Thursday painted a graphic picture of this gone-to-hell neighborhood: “The house at 615 Wells is one of a side-by-side string of four houses on the west side of the former Wells Administration Building. All of them were boarded up. All of them sustained fire damage in recent years, firefighters pointed out. Still, all of them are open. Some of the boards from each one had been pried off. Curtains blew through broken glass on the broken windows.”
    In August, after Canton experienced nearly a dozen shootings, one of them fatal, the police chief wondered, “Where’s the community outcry here?” Some residents know more than they’re telling about the crimes, he said. There was an outcry after that, all right, and police, armed with information from residents, made a couple of raids that led to several arrests.
    The fire chief might well ask: Where’s the outcry about the rash of fires in vacant buildings that goes back three or four years?
    Abandoned buildings and arson are a lethal combination. The potential for tragedy is enormous. The Fire Prevention Bureau says that more than 4,000 houses in the city are boarded up.
    It will take forever, and a lot more money than the city has, to raze 4,000 houses. Meanwhile, there’s just no excuse for residents not giving fire investigators any information they have that could take arsonists off the streets. Call 330-489-3400.

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