Fires set at vacant homes

WARREN – Marilene Dawson stood outside her 2306 Willow Drive home Wednesday evening, trembling with fear as Warren firefighters doused a grass fire in the rear of the long-abandoned home next door.

Some neighbors walked over to comfort her, while others watched as firefighters put out the flames shortly after 7:30 p.m. A garage behind the abandoned house at 2316 Willow Drive also caught fire from the burning grass.

“This is the second fire I’ve been involved in,” she said. “Five years ago, I was in a house fire. I had to take my wheelchair-bound ex-husband from the house. I had so much smoke in my lungs that I was put in the hospital for two weeks.”

On Monday, while at a 6th Ward meeting sponsored by Councilwoman Cheryl Saffold, Dawson warned that something was going to happen at this abandoned house and others across the city if something was not done.

“I believe God gave me a premonition,” Dawson, wearing a surgical mask, said Wednesday afternoon.

About the same time, a fire was set at another abandoned house at 2336 Wilson Drive. Someone climbed into a rear window of the ranch style home and set a small fire on the floor, according to assistant fire Chief Dan Suttles.

The fire was contained in one room of the house.

“We are investigating,” Suttles said.

Saffold said she was told the fires may have been set by little kids playing in the yards.

“It would be a shame if people resorted to setting grass fires, just to get the grass cut,” Saffold said. “Thank God no one was hurt.”

Wheeler Morgan, a 6th Ward committee member, says he has been asking for something to be done about abandoned properties on Willow Drive for four to five years.

Dawson said the nearly 3-foot-high grass at the house next door has not been cut this year and people had been dumping rubbish and trash in the back yard.

She was so concerned about the high grasses and the animals running through the yards that Dawson joined five other southwest side residents at the June 12 City Council meeting demanding that grasses throughout the city be cut.

At that meeting, Mayor Doug Franklin promised the residents the city would address their complaints about high grass.

Dawson said earlier in the day, she called the Ohio EPA, and the county and the city health departments about the house. She said she was concerned that chemicals may be in the house and in the backyard because of continued smells coming from it.

Wednesday evening, Dawson was talking to her mother on the phone when she thought she smelled smoke.

“I thought maybe someone was barbecuing,” she said. “When I hung up, I decided to lay down.”

A few moments later, a neighbor, Helene Hugley, was banging on her door, telling Dawson to call 911 because smoke was rising from the grass behind 2316 Willow Drive.

“I saw the smoke coming up from behind the house,” Hugley said.

The fire department received the call for the fire at 7:28 p.m.