SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — The rise of vacant house fires has become a growing concern according to the Springfield Fire Department’s annual report. 

“Nothing would make me happier than not responding to another vacant structure fire, ” said Fire Chief David Pennington.

On Sunday, the SFD responded to multiple calls for fires, including at a vacant home that was on fire for the second time in a week.

“Saw the smoke and I come running because I know there’s some trouble down here,” said neighbor Joseph Newport.

According to the department’s 2022 annual report, vacant house fires are on the rise.

SFD responded to 51 vacant house fires in 2021, compared to 72 in 2022. 

“We’ve been in a fairly active period of fires here in the last month, unfortunately, and a few of those have been vacant structures,” says Pennington. “It’s about a 41% increase. We’ve had a fairly significant increase, which is troubling for our community.”

These fires impact the community by taking significant resources and putting neighbors and firefighters at risk. 

“Any time that the fire department has to respond, it puts our firefighters at risk,” said  Pennington. “They’re a danger to the neighborhood.”

Officials urge people to report suspicious activity near vacant homes as fire officials work to hopefully see a drop in these types of fires this year. 

“We work with our partners in building development services who work with neighborhood associations, and groups in the community,” said Pennington. “If you see activity happening around the home that you know those vacant, please call 911. That gives us the best opportunity to try and correct the problem before there’s a fire or some other event.”