Columbus South Side Residents Want Burnt Out Homes Razed.

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A house on Woodrow Avenue is labeled "arson." It's one of ten houses that fire officials deem suspicious blazes.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)
A house on Woodrow Avenue is labeled "arson." It's one of ten houses that fire officials deem suspicious blazes.(Photo: Mandie Trimble, WOSU News Reporter)

Since early January suspicious fires have burned ten houses on Columbus’s south side. In many of the cases, fire officials suspect arson and they have arrested three suspects. WOSU reports that some neighbors blame the rash of arsons on vacant properties.

Gregory Ames stands in his backyard holding a cup of coffee while his dog Boomer sniffs along the edge of the fence. Ames lives on Woodrow Avenue and cattycorner to one of the houses set on fire in late January.

“I don’t know why anybody would do something like that,” he said.

Ames is not too worried about his safety. He’s more concerned about all the vacant houses around his neighborhood. Ames pointed to the boarded up house across the street – its vinyl siding melted and misshapen from the fire.

“I’ve been here for over three years. This one and next three have been empty. They’ve been stripped out and whatever they can get out of them. It’s just a place to party in, I guess, or something. I don’t know. And that thing over there that you were just looking at, it’s been empty a lot longer than I’ve been around here,” Ames said.

Most of the homes that have been set on fire were vacant. Ames wants to see the empty structures in his neighborhood torn down. And he’s not the only one. Toni Haddock lives directly behind the burned house Ames described. She was at home asleep with her one-year-old son when it was set on fire. Haddock said the houses should not be left vacant.

“That’s the problem. They need to fix these houses. Either sell them to HUD or fix them up make the owner do something to them,” Haddock said.

The most recent fires took place late Sunday night and early Monday morning – two of them on Innis Avenue just south of Woodrow. That brings to three – the number of houses that have burned on that street.

George Ostermeyer lives around the corner. Ostermeyer is concerned because there are several vacant houses as he said – only a rock throwin’ distance to his home.

“Are you afraid that a fire is going to be set and it could spread to your house? Yes. We all are in right there in that area. The houses, they’ve been empty so long and the timber’s dry so if it goes it’s going to go quick. And it could go to our house, too,” he said.

Police have charged two boys, ages 12 and 15, and an adult, William Parsley, with arson in connection with some of the fires.

Fire Battalion Chief Doug Smith said investigators are looking at all possible motives for the fires. Most recently, he said, they’re trying to figure out if the fires are connected to a gang called the “Blue Aces.” The name is spray painted on vacant buildings around the South Side neighborhood. It is also on a building near a house that burned on Innis Avenue.