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Home destroyed, family suspect thieves

(Source Geronimo Fire Department) (Source Geronimo Fire Department)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) - A vacant home just south of Lawton in Comanche County, that has been in the family for more than 70 years, burned to the ground overnight.

The owner's suspects thieves who have been breaking into the empty home for months stealing furniture, have something to do with it. Firefighters got to the home after 12:30 Friday morning, and the Geronimo fire chief says the home was engulfed in flames. There was nothing for them do except get the fire out and prevent it from spreading to nearby structures. The chief listed the fire as suspicious but they did not find evidence at the scene to determine what caused the fire.

Wanda Cavel, the sister of the land owner, saw what is left of her childhood home hours after it caught fire. Cavel told me no one has really lived in the home in 15 years. For the past couple months, thieves have been taking what's inside. The family took what was left out of the home. But she thinks that didn't stop the break-ins, and now the home is gone.

"It makes be sad to think of my mom and my dad,” said Cavel. "It was their home."

Cavel walked around the burned down home, remembering what it was like growing up there.

"All the family came here for lunch on Sunday's and we kids have played all over this place,” said Cavel. “Cowboys and Indians and everything else."

Now, it is not a place to play, but a site to clean up.

"It's just rubble,” said Cavel. “Last night of course it was fire, a lot of fire. We could watch the walls go down and cave in. Just have to get cleaned up now."

Cavel and her family believe a string of recent burglaries targeting the area and the fire are related.

"They took clothes, they took pictures off the walls, to begin with," said Cavel. "Eventually they cleaned the house out. All for but a few items."

Cavel filed reports on the burglaries, and her family started moving things out of the house. No one has lived in the home since Cavel's father passed away, and the electricity and plumbing have been shut off. Cavel says some of her neighbors with empty homes have also had break ins, and two caught on fire in the past few months. The Geronimo fire chief says they have responded to about 3 abandoned house fires in the past 90 days.

Cavel and her family just want to know how this happened, and also warn others to check on their properties.

"We put I think 5 different locks on there, and they broke in every time," said Cavel.

Cavel had a message for the thieves that she believes is responsible for the fire.

"It made me sad, but it makes me mad,” said Cavel. “But the sad part is they've taken my memories from me, and I don't know how people can do that."

The home is not safe for the family to start to remove the debris yet. But their neighbors have offered to lend them some help in digging out the burned remains.

The findings of the investigation will be put together by the Comanche County Emergency Management office, and then sent to the state's fire marshal. Because the cause of the fire hasn't been determined, and no suspects have been identified, the investigation is at a stand-still until new information is found.

The family wants anyone who saw something out at the home that night to report it to the authorities, so they can get closer to finding out what happened at their family's home.

Copyright 2016 KSWO. All rights reserved.

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