Fire crews put out an intentionally set blaze early Tuesday in the Hi-Crest neighborhood of southeast Topeka, and residents who live nearby expressed concern over the growing number of vacant houses they say have been going up in flames in recent months.
The Topeka Fire Department was called around 6:50 a.m. Tuesday to a single-story home at 322 S.E. 35th Terrace after receiving a report that it was on fire.
Topeka Fire Department Battalion Chief Mark Brannock said first-arriving crews found a small amount of flames and smoke coming from the back portion of the home.
Brannock said firefighters quickly put out the blaze.
An interior search of the residence found no one was inside.
Brannock said utilities were still connected to the house, which appeared to be vacant at the time of the fire.
A Topeka fire investigator was called to the scene. A preliminary investigation revealed the fire was incendiary, or intentionally set, and that it began at the rear of the residence.
The damage was estimated at $5,000, with the entire loss to the structure.
Several neighbors gathered on a sidewalk across the street from the house that caught fire. Among them was Eula Miller, who pointed to a house at 330 S.E. 35th Terrace that caught fire early one morning this past August.
That house, separated only by a vacant lot from the residence that caught fire on Tuesday, had its windows boarded up.
Another fire in the same area of Hi-Crest caught fire several weeks ago. That blaze, which occurred around 6:30 a.m. Nov. 30 at a vacant house at 3359 S.E. Irvingham, was determined to have been intentionally set.
Details of what caused the fire at 330 S.E. 35th Terrace in August weren’t available.
Miller noted all three of the recent fires in her neighborhood occurred at roughly the same time of day, and all of them were at homes that were vacant at the time.
“A lot of us are worried with what’s going on with these vacant houses,” Miller said. “It’s not usual to have three houses in the same neighborhood go up in flames the same way, the same time of day.”
Miller said the house that caught fire Tuesday morning had been vacant for the past “two or three weeks.” The house at 330 S.E. 35th Terrace that burned in August had been vacant much longer — some eight to nine months, she said.
“It makes me really nervous,” Miller said. “I’ve been here for three years, and before that I grew up over here.”
Though Miller said she and her neighbors frequently hear gunshots in their area, their block is “very, very quiet. It’s mostly older folks, so we all watch out for each other.”
Anyone with information about any of the recent fires may call Capital Area Crime Stoppers at (785) 234-0007 or at (800)-222-8477.
Contact Phil Anderson at (785) 295-1195 or follow live reports @Philreports on Twitter. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/philreports.tcj/