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CRFD investigating fourth fire in Booker Washington Heights neighborhood

Published: Jun. 11, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Friday morning a fourth home burned in the Booker Washington Heights neighborhood in the last three weeks.

The Columbia Richland County Fire Department confirmed the vacant house on 3500 Carver Street caught fire around 4 a.m. on the morning of June 11.

It joins fires at 3416 Carver Street, 2617 High Circle, and 3418 Beaumont Street.

The first Carver Street fire took place on May 23rd, while the latter two fires were on May 26.

The 3500 Carver Street fire follows a trend of abandoned or vacant buildings catching fire. The 3416 Carver Street fire and the 2617 High Circle fire were both at buildings where no one lived.

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Fire Marshal George Adams confirmed the 3416 Carver Street fire is being ruled accidental after it appears someone entered the structure and tried to cook food.

Regardless of the cause, neighborhood organization vice president James Speaks expressed frustration with the incidents.

“I am angry because enough is enough. We’ve dealt with this last year. We’ve dealt with this for a couple of years, and it’s come back. Whatever demon has been laid to rest, it’s been unearthed and it’s back. It seems to be on the warpath, and we want to put an end to it,” he said.

Speaks said he’s lived in the community for 30 years, and when he arrived it was a thriving African-American neighborhood. He is hopeful that city revitalization will help bring the community up, with either investment into improving vacant/abandoned homes or tearing them down.

He said right now the properties are posing a challenge, and the community has its eyes out for whoever may be setting them on fire.

“We’re going to see you. You’re going to be caught. I’d hate to see you caught red-handed with fire, but I want you to be caught with a match or cigarette lighter or whatever means you’re using to start these fires. We want to catch you,” he said.

It’s unclear if an arsonist is involved. The Columbia Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Timmons said there are currently no suspects in the case, but there have been interviews.

Adams did state that vacant buildings have created opportunities for fires.

“There’s a lot of vacant structures and there’s a lot of homeless people in that area. And we can associate those homeless people with those fires, whether it’s accidental or whether it’s intentional,” he said.

District 2 City Councilman Ed McDowell said he would be bringing the issue of the fires up at the Columbia City Council meeting on Tuesday, June 15.

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