Fires started by vagrants on the rise - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Fires started by vagrants on the rise

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January 24, 2003

Albany- Rushing to the scene of a home on fire is normal for firemen, but this winter they've responded to many fires at vacant buildings.

"I would say we've had about six or seven in the last couple of weeks," says Assistant Fire Chief James Carswell.

Not only do they believe the blaze that destroyed the building where a body was found Friday afternoon was set by vagrants, but investigators also say the fire that ravaged a house on Tuesday was set by people who are homeless.

"There's a better way. I would suggest the anchorage if your an alcoholic or drug addict. You can stay there indefinitely," says Philip King, resident at the Salvation Army shelter.

Residents at the Salvation Army say they know how it is to be cold and on the streets, but urge others to come to a shelter. Shelter Manager Lurlene Batten says they won't worry about the rules, if it will make people to come in instead of setting a fire that could be unsafe.

With more cold temperatures this weekend firefighters are hoping people will seek shelter and not a fire to keep warm.

Chief Carswell says even though they determined Tuesday's fire on Tift Avenue was arson, they're still trying to determine if it was set maliciously or by people just trying to stay warm.

Posted at 10:46 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com