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Residents React to Suspicious House Fire at Vacant Home

Published: Apr. 15, 2013 at 12:38 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 18, 2013 at 2:07 PM CDT
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Lawton, Okla._Residents who live near a vacant house that was damaged in a suspicious fire Saturday night said they're not surprised to learn that it may have been intentionally set. The fire broke out at a house near Southwest 46th and "I" Avenue around 8:00 p.m. Saturday evening. When firefighters arrived the back of the house was engulfed in flames. Once the flames were extinguished, fire investigators said they found a large amount of drug paraphernalia and gang graffiti on the walls and say it looked as if squatters had taken over the house.

Investigators said the fire started in a storage area in the back of the house that opens to the backyard and not the living area, so they do not think that squatters caused the fire. They said they're investigating different theories, but they are not ruling out arson.

Residents who live near the house said that information is troubling. Angela Tatum, who lives next door, said it was just a matter of time before something like this happened.

"It's scary but...I mean...I wouldn't doubt it. I mean this isn't the best neighborhood in the world. But it's crazy and people are absolutely nuts", said Tatum.

She said the "keep out" signs that are posted on the house were there before the fire but obviously, they didn't work. Tatum and other residents said they were shocked after learning about squatters living in the house, but said they've seen kids vandalizing this house in recent months.

"The back windows have boarded up but we've seen kids stomping through the backyard. We've had to get our cats out of there, saw people had broken the windows out" , said Tatum.

Davie Tims lives just a few doors down, but said he thought the fire may have been a prank gone wrong.

"I just figured something happened down there with kids playing around with fire or something. I had no clue of what actually was happening", said Tims.

Although fire investigators said they're still not certain how the fire got started, they did say evidence shows there may have been human involvement whether intentional or not. Residents said the idea that it could have been set intentionally is unnerving.

"It could be anybody walking up and down the street. So, I have no idea", said Tims.

"It's heartbreaking, you don't do that to somebody. If you're playing tricks on somebody, pranks like that, don't do it to somebody's house. That's still somebody's house that used to live there", said Tatum.

According to the police report, a neighbor told investigators she saw two white teenage males walking away from the house around the time of the fire. The Lawton Fire Marshal's office said they could not comment on that lead at this time. The Lawton Fire Department estimates the damage caused to the home around 1500 dollars, but said it was not a total loss.