AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Mark Allen has lived in Harrisburg for 30 years.
He’s seen firsthand how abandoned homes in the Harrisburg area can turn into shelters for the homeless as they start fires to keep warm — but sometimes those fires turn into a blaze.
“We’ve had one right beside us catch on fire before for that same reason. Luckily, the fire department is right down the street, so they came pretty fast,” Mark Allen said.
The Augusta Fire Department says as temperatures drop, they see an increase in house fires in the area.
“Its a real big concern around here because these houses are really close together and they’ve been here so long they’re old. The least little thing can cause a blaze. Even the yards. We try to keep the leaves picked up because it can cause a fire,” Allen said.
District one commissioner and Homeless task force chairman Jordan Johnson said the problem is a safety issue that needs to be addressed.
“Making sure that we double down on code enforcement in neighborhoods where there are dilapidated structures. Whether to have those properties boarded up or what have you is going to be so important this season,” Johnson said.
It also means working to tackle the issue of homelessness in the area and getting the homeless the resources they need.
“There are teams going out every weekend in different parts of Augusta to actually do outreach. Going exactly where homeless people are to give assistance. That’s the work we’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. So, the work is an ongoing process. Taking the resources directly from the office to the people,” Johnson said.
And as that work continues residents like Allen are hopeful for a better future for Harrisburg.
“Build the neighborhood back up and make it look pretty again. This is a good place to live good people around here it’s just some of these houses need to be gone.”