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Abandoned home torched four times in 2019 will be demolished by end of the year, city says

Posted at 3:53 PM, Dec 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-19 17:30:21-05

CLEVELAND — Two fires have been set to a vacant home in the Collinwood neighborhood this week.

Longtime residents there are sharing their frustrations with the city’s “Safe Routes to School” program, which was designed to demolish unsafe, vacant homes like the one on Argus Avenue.

“It’s a garage right behind that garage, and then a house right behind that garage,” Rose Clark said, “So if you look they’re back to back. So they could’ve caught that one on fire.”

The garage of the vacant home on Argus Avenue is the latest target of an arsonist or arsonists.

Clark said even in freezing temperatures, she will no longer be parking in her garage in fear of losing her car in another potential fire.

Investigators say none of the four fires have been accidental. The first fire occurred in May. The second blaze followed in October. Two more fires were set back-to-back on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.

“I looked out the window and I said, ‘Oh Lord, the garage is on fire,’” Clark said.

The repeated blazes are igniting new frustrations and fears for Clark and her neighbors.

“It feels terrible. You don’t know whether to go to sleep or stay up,” Clark said, “Always watching and every little thing you hear outside you’re looking out the window.”

The siding on her home is melted and warped from the heat of the repeated fires.

Councilman Mike Polensek, who represents the neighborhood, said enough is enough.

“For it to be, you know, a constant target of someone who is determined to burn it to the ground,” Polensek said, “And now I have to worry about the elderly residents next door to it.”

The motive for the four fires still remains a mystery.

“It could be anger. We’ve seen arson out of frustration. People setting abandoned structures on fire out of frustration because they don’t come down,” Polensek said, “Could be insurance fraud. It could be a wide variety of issues.”

Clark said the longer the city waits to tear down the house, the greater the danger becomes.

“It’s gonna start up again. I’ve got a hunch it’s gonna start up again,” Clark said, “You guarantee that, because it’s still standing.”

Polensek said the torched house is still standing and posing a threat because the City of Cleveland’s Building and Housing department hasn’t been able to track down the out-of-state owner of the home.

A spokesperson with the City of Cleveland assured News 5 Thursday that the home will be demolished by the end of the year.