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Fire Damages Two City Homes

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Rochester: Fire Damages Two City Homes
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People living in one Rochester neighborhood know it could have been much worse. Still, they say another fire in another vacant house means another loss in what has been a long-standing battle.

The call came in just after 9 a.m. Monday. A vacant house on fire on Lorenzo Street, which quickly caught the eyes, and noses, of neighbors.

"Next thing I know, flames start busting like crazy," said George Shulenburg.

Firefighters had a bigger issue.

"It was extending to a second building next door, at which point a second alarm was declared to make sure the fire didn't spread to additional buildings," said Lt. Ted Kuppinger, Rochester Fire Department.

"It is an ongoing thing," said Rohida Richardson.

Rohida Richardson's daughter lives in the house next door. The flames melted siding. She was okay.

"Every time there's a vacant house, it seems like somebody burns it down."

Richardson says several vacant homes in the neighborhood have burned, all suspiciously.

"They tore up the one across the street, then one around the corner they burned down," she said.

"It is a problem and we deal with it daily," said Kuppinger.

Fire investigators labeled this fire suspicious. The house was empty. Gas and electric had been turned off.

"Any time you have a fire in a vacant you're suspicious of it, because there's no real reason for it to start," said Kuppinger.

With hundreds of vacant homes spread across the city, it's a problem Rochester firefighters have battled for years.

Last year, the city vowed to step up efforts to tear down blighted, vacant houses. Many of the most dangerous ones have been marked with placards, warning firefighters not to enter because they're structurally unstable.

"We won't risk going in that building."

Winter's cold brings additional issues. Firefighters say people sometime start fires inside the vacant homes to stay warm.

"We have weekly meetings where we look at the police stats, we look at the fire stats and try to look at where areas of problems might be so we can direct our resources to those areas," Kuppinger said.

"Yeah, most of them are probably drug houses or houses that were once on fire," said Shulenburg. "I mean, I've caught kids breaking into that house, I've stopped them before."

People on Lorenzo Street say they'd like to see more boarded up houses torn down. They know, as do firefighters, there are almost too many to keep up with.

"Looks like another non-dull day in our neighborhood," Shulenburg said.

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