Derelict Homes Pose Fire Risk for Communities

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Four people were killed in a Poughkeepsie house fire on Monday, December 3rd, 2018. Investigators believe the source of the blaze was a candle in a downstairs bathroom. The house had been abandoned years earlier and had no working electricity, necessitating the use of fire as a heat source for the squatters who had taken over the building.

Firefighters arrived quickly enough to control the blaze and keep it from spreading to nearby structures, but in many cases neighborhoods are not so lucky, particularly in areas where houses are situated more closely together. Yards can act as an effective firebreak, but in many cases strong winds can carry a fire from rooftop to rooftop quickly. If an ember catches, multiple homes can be lost to what started as a single house fire.

Abandoned homes are more likely to catch fire, and more likely to act as conduits for fires to spread, for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Deferred maintenance on the interior of the building leading to exposed wood or other flammable materials
  • Water service being discontinued, making putting out small fires that do start more difficult
  • The presence of squatters, many of whom use fire to keep warm
  • The possibility of arson, either for insurance purposes or by teenagers or young adults seeking a thrill

As dangerous as these situations are with house fires, the potential for fatality and injury is higher when dealing with larger buildings. An empty apartment that attracts squatters poses many of the same fire risks as an abandoned home, but is likely to affect dozens more families if something goes wrong.

If you or someone you love has suffered due to a building fire, determining who is responsible for the fire can be difficult. Please consult with an experienced attorney regarding your case, and hold any negligent parties accountable for their inaction.