Squatters could be cause of recent fires

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GRAYSON,COUNTY---The investigation into two recent fires is raising eyebrows for local departments on the possibility of squatters.

"Anytime we have a house that doesn't have any utilities hooked to it, we start raising an eyebrow, how did this start?" said Assistant Chief Bill Ray.

When Denison firefighters arrived on scene Tuesday morning to two houses burning off of Fannin Avenue they realized one was abandoned. Assistant chief Bill Ray says when they see that, they begin to wonder.

"When you get the temperatures in the 20's and the teens, those people are looking for some place to stay warm, and rightfully so, but walking into a vacant home, and building a fire in a paint can or some type of bucket, you're going to set the house on fire." said Ray.

The owners of the house told News 12 that the home had been vacant for several months, and was at the time unlivable. Ray says the city tries to get rid of homes like that one, which was actually slated to be torn down by the city, so no one tries to stay inside.

"The entire city government works hard trying to tear those down, not only to beautify the city, but to prevent this kind of thing from happening." said Ray.

"From a citizen stand point, if you see somebody at a house and you know it's not theirs, and you think they're causing mischief, get us involved very quickly." said Chief Jeff Jones.

Chief Jeff Jones says the home that caught fire Tuesday night in Sherman had a similarity to the one in Denison: vacant, with the utilities off. He says if someone is messing around or trying to stay warm at one home, they'll target another one.

"If we find somebody that did this one, that property's no longer there, so if they still want to stay warm, or they still want to cause damage, they're going to look for the next one." said Jones.

Both departments are warning homeowners in the future that live in an area near vacant houses to be on the lookout for these possible squatters trying to find another home.

"If you have an area where there are more vacant houses, then yeah, that area is probably more susceptible to mischief and that kind of thing." said Ray.

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