Birmingham officials looking for answers in multiple fire cases

(WIAT-CBS42)
(WIAT-CBS42)

[lin_video src=http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/player.js?aspect_ratio=16x9&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&div_id=videoplayer-1365608770&height=480&page_count=5&pf_id=9624&show_title=1&va_id=4012445&width=640&windows=2 service=syndicaster width=640 height=480 div_id=videoplayer-1365608770 type=script]BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) -

“I never thought my mama’s house would catch on fire. She’s been here for so many years, since before I was born. So, I really…I mean I don’t know.” -Shacorrian Christian

A family of seven is picking up the pieces Tuesday night, after a string of fires severely damaged their Birmingham home. Investigators say five blazes were intentionally set.

This is now makes two straight days with serious fires. And while firefighters suspect arson in the Woodlawn community, they say one simple precaution in the kitchen could have prevented two deaths in another part of Birmingham on Monday night.

“You never leave any food unattended when you cook it. You stay in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen you turn the stove off.  It’s just that simple.” -Birmingham Fire Battalion Chief C.W. Mardis

The fire on Monday in the Ensley community left two dead, an 81-year-old woman and her son. The cause of the fire was food being left on the stove. The mother, an invalid, wasn’t able to escape the intense flames. Firefighters were able to pull the man out of the house, but he later past away at UAB hospital. Chief Mardis wants to reverse what he calls a damaging and deadly trend, “food unattended on a stove is to blame for more than 30 fires in the city this year.” 

It’s been a busy few days for firefighters, who on Tuesday also had to douse flames at five homes in the Woodlawn neighborhood. But these fires weren’t caused by unattended food, they are believed to be linked to arson.

“They are suspicious. We feel like somebody has been setting the fires in this area.”  -Birmingham Fire Capt. Allen Hatcher

Four of the homes were abandoned, yet seven people lived in the other. The Red Cross stepped in with immediate assistance, but the family isn’t sure what they’ll do next.

“Mama’s gotta find us another house. I guess we’re going to our Auntie’s house till she finds another house.  I don’t know how long that’s going to take.” -Shacorrian Christian

Birmingham Police say they’re questioning two people about the five fires. People who live in the Woodlawn area say abandoned homes have been a big problem for years. But they’re not optimistic that anything will be done to alleviate the problem anytime soon.

Mayor William Bell has called the number of abandoned homes in the city an epidemic. Yet de also claims state lawmakers have tied the city’s hands about how they can demolish the homes. Mayor Bell also claims that Birmingham doesn’t have the money for the job either.

CBS42’s Sherri Jackson spoke with Birmingham Fire Chief C.W. Mardis on Tuesday night about the recent fires at the abandoned buildings. Chief Mardis says that there is still an ongoing investigation into the cause of the massive fire at the old Action Printing Company that happened on March 29th.

Fire at the Action Printing Building in downtown Birmingham, on March 29th (WIAT-CBS42)
Fire at the Action Printing Building in downtown Birmingham, on March 29th (WIAT-CBS42)

That blaze sent a plume of smoke over downtown Birmingham. The building had to be demolished.

And as f0r the deadly fire on the Southside on February 18th that claimed the lives of three people, he says there is still an ongoing investigation into the cause of that fire.

Picture of the blaze that hit an abandoned building in the Southside of Birmingham, on February 18th. (WIAT-CBS42)
Picture of the blaze that hit an abandoned building in the Southside of Birmingham, on February 18th. (WIAT-CBS42)

Sadly, one of the victims has yet to be identified. Jeffery Petty and Thomas Martin also perished in that fire on 20th Street South.

 

Copyright 2013 WIAT-TV CBS 42

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