After a number of fires were reported throughout Southwest Baltimore recently, one resident continues to sleep on a couch, fearful the arsonist might return, says Cynthia Tensley, the Carrollton Ridge Community Association president.
The resident lives next to a vacant home that has recently burned, and, as a precaution, the resident continues to sleep downstairs to listen to hear whether a suspect might be back to reignite a blaze, Tensley told Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young after a walk through the neighborhood Wednesday night with other city leaders, including Police Commissioner Michael Harrison and Fire Chief Niles Ford.
The walk comes just days after police charged two men in two fires. Officials said 17 fires have broken out since Dec. 2, five of which have been ruled arson.
Tensley said she and others are concerned about those burned-out vacant houses remaining unsecured, potentially allowing another fire. She said she was aware of 20 homes that needed to be boarded up.
Young assured Tensley that city officials would make sure the homes were secured.
But Tensley and other residents said Carrollton Ridge and surrounding communities are in desperate need of attention. They complained of drug-dealing, constant trash and illegal dumping, vacant homes and other concerns.
Natasza Bock-Singleton, president of the nearby Violetville Community Association, said she and other residents had been complaining since June about several fires in their community that residents believed were arson. Bock-Singleton said police were reluctant to get involved in fire investigations and that one officer made a disparaging comment that the neighborhood should burn. She said she made a complaint to the department’s internal affairs unit.
Bock-Singleton said she's been frustrated by the city's slow response to residents' concerns.
City officials are "here now to assist after 17 fires," she said.
During the walk-around from Samuel F.B. Morse Elementary School, the group of city officials from the Housing Department, Mayor’s Office of Homeless Services and other agencies stopped to take notes on vacant houses, illegal dumping and other problems.
At one Formstone home that had some windows covered with warped plywood, a group of employees from housing took notes. On the second floor, officials from homeless services noticed a line of drinks along the window, which they said is often a sign that residents don’t have electricity for a refrigerator.
A man answered at the front door but declined to talk to the city officials. Across the street, officials peered into several other vacant homes that remained unsecured.