SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Since the cold weather showed up, there has been an uptick in vacant house fires in Springfield.
This time of year, Chief of Community Risk Reduction for the Springfield Fire department Kevin Trogdon says the number of vacant house fires tend to increase.
In all of 2019, there were 46 vacant structures that caught fire. Through September of 2020, Trogdon says there have already been 50.
The total for the month of October has not been tabulated, but two more vacant houses caught fire this week – one on Monday and one on Tuesday. Trogdon says it likely has to do with people looking to get out of the elements.
“So the final reports haven’t come in yet on the last couple of structure fires that we’ve had, but there were a couple that were in abandoned houses,” said Trogdon. “There is a possibility that could be it – that someone has gotten into that house and started a fire to keep warm. Our concern is that somebody gets into one of those, they have a warming fire, and it gets out of control,” Trogdon says.
Regardless of the conditions, Lead Pastor at The Connecting Grounds Church Christie Love says those on the streets can’t even get into a shelter yet.
“Shelters aren’t open,” said Love. “So even when the temperature does dip below freezing this week, here in Springfield shelters do not open. It’s a hard rule until November 1. That’s something that I would love to see changed.”
Even when those shelters do open, Love says the capacity is cut in half due to the pandemic. She says they need volunteers and more facilities to open their doors.
“We put out a big call , and only four churches have offered opened their doors out of about 650 in Springfield,” says Love.
Those spots that are open need to be applied for ahead of time, and will only open during freezing temperatures.
Jeff Telleen is one of those that was able to get a spot at a local shelter for the oncoming months. He has been homeless for the last six months after losing his job as a result of the pandemic.
“I normally work for a carnival,” said Telleen. “This all started up back in April. We were just getting ready to go out, and a lot of the fairs and counties said they weren’t going to put on, so we decided to shut our season down. That left me without a position.”
Despite that, Telleen considers himself lucky to have a place to sleep once the temperatures drop.
“They’re taking 50 and I got signed up today for it, so I’m in for one, but again that’s only on the days below freezing,” said Telleen. “At the same time, you feel bad because a lot of other people can’t make it.”
You can volunteer at a shelter, and donate through The Connecting Grounds or The Ozarks Alliance to End Homelessness to help save lives this winter.