Fire in vacant church caused by squatters

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Crews responded to a fire at a vacant church on the city’s northwest side. The fire department believes squatters caused the fire.

As the temperature begins to drop, homeless Hoosiers may turn to vacant buildings for shelter to get warm.

"With the colder weather coming, it's expected and anticipated that we’ll have people that are seeking shelter to try and stay warm," said Rita Reith with the Indianapolis Fire Department. "They’re using things like warming fires and available combustibles to use for comfort and for warmth.”

While a fire can cause problems itself, vacant buildings can be even more dangerous. The former church was stripped bare, with holes in the floor, creating hazards for first responders and also for those living nearby.

“It's something that we don't want curious kids walking by one of those structures and being curious about what's inside because it would only take a second before somebody gets injured,” Reith said.

On Tuesday, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett celebrated the 200th vacant home redeveloped with the program "Renew Indy," but said there’s still more to go.

"Last year, I announced a plan to rehab, transform or demolish 2000 homes in two years," Mayor Hogsett said to the crowd on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the fire department needs help to keep these types of fires from happening.

“We do understand that there are needs for warmth for some of our folks that live in our city, but there are resources available and there are entities that will help get you to those resources,” Reith said. "It's a constant process for us to ask people to be vigilant about what's happening in your neighborhood, call us if you see something suspicious going on in a house. Let IMPD get over there and check it out. Let's all work together to make this winter a safe one.”

No one was hurt or injured in this morning's fire.

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