When cold weather hits the area, Owensboro Fire Department and Owensboro Police Department respond to an increased number of structure fires at vacant or abandoned buildings. With the recent cold snap that hit the area, officials said they are responding to those calls earlier than normal.
These fires, which Owensboro Fire Chief Steve Mitchell said are most likely caused by individuals gaining access to the property to stay warm, are dangerous for two reasons.
“When the homeless get in these buildings, there’s no utilities — no electric, no gas — so they try to build small fires to cook off of and stay warm,” Mitchell said. “That’s a structure fire danger. The other thing that’s concerning is because there is no way to ventilate those fires, and fires give off carbon monoxide, you end up with people with carbon monoxide poisoning.”
Mitchell said although there have only been a couple of these situations occur this year, it is his hope to prevent them at all.
“We’re trying to head it off this year,” he said. “We’re not trying to get these people in trouble, we’re trying to get them to the shelters.”
Daviess County White Flag season officially began on Nov. 1, and will run through March 31. White Flag signifies the opening of a nighttime warming shelter in Owensboro-Daviess County for those seeking shelter for the night. White Flag is declared when the temperature and/or wind chill is 15°F or below during the hours of 7 p.m. to 8 a.m.
When White Flag is declared, the warming shelter is open to all men, women and children at St. Benedict’s Homeless Shelter located at 1001 West Seventh Street from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. the next morning unless enough beds are available at another shelter.
Mitchell encourages the citizens to watch vacant or abandoned properties around their neighborhoods and report any suspicious activities. He also asks that property owners ensure their buildings are properly secured.
“Let us get them to where they get three meals a day and they get a bed,” Mitchell said.
To report suspicious activity, please contact the Owensboro Police Department at 270-687-8888.