TEMPLE, Texas — The Temple Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating two recent house fires in East Temple as suspicious, but no arson cases have resulted as of yet.
Firefighters were called Sunday just before 3:30 a.m. to a house fire at 512 East Avenue F. While they were responding that fire, smoke could be seen coming from a home at 517 East Avenue E, fire officials said.
The home at 512 East Avenue F was a total loss, according to fire officials. The building at 517 East Avenue E had fire, smoke and heat damage.
Both buildings were vacant, officials said.
The good news, locals can help prevent suspicious fires by contacting the city of Temple Code Compliance Office at (254) 298-5670. Transform Temple Director Buford Craig, who is over code enforcement, told Channel 6 he sees violations every day and needs the public to help report rundown, unsecured properties.
"We do patrols daily, we have code guys out there driving around and try to identify these things but we don't see everything," Buford said. "When people bring stuff to our attention...we respond to all code violation complaints."
Buford said in some cases code compliance will board up a property themselves to keep out animals or people who should not be entering the home.
The Temple Fire Marshal’s Office said six fires since Nov. 30, 2018, are considered suspicious.
Five of the fires were at homes that were vacant of being remodeled, investigators said. The sixth vehicle was a vehicle, investigators said.
The fires were all throughout Temple, the fire marshal’s office said.
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, the leading cause of vacant residential fires was intentional actions at 34 percent. The next three leading causes combined accounted for one-third of vacant residential fires: open flame (13 percent); other unintentional, careless actions (12 percent); and electrical malfunction (8 percent).
Vacant residential buildings can pose problems because they are rarely maintained and often attract “illicit or illegal activity,” the fire marshal’s office said. In addition, vacant residential Homeless people sometimes use the buildings as temporary shelters or housing, officials said.
The Temple Fire Marshal’s Office said homeowners can take steps to reduce their risks:
- Keep the area tidy by mowing grass and remove trash from around the property.
- Remove all possible sources of ignition such as flammable liquids and unused gasoline containers.
- Secure abandoned and vacant homes which are potential targets. Make sure doors and windows are locked. Cover broken windows with Clear board. These products are composed of polycarbonate. They are weather resistant and superior to plywood which can easily be pried off the building.
- Turn porch lights on at night. Consider adding additional lighting as necessary.
- Check vacant property on a regular basis.
- Consider adding a security system.
Neighbors should report suspicious activity to the authorities.
Anyone with information about a fire in the city is asked to call the Temple Fire Marshal’s Tip Line at (254) 298-5955 or leave information online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A $500 reward is paid for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone setting a fire inside Temple city limits.