"People are ingenious on how they get into these buildings"

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A warehouse fire Thursday on Papin street south of downtown is being blamed on warming fires kindled by the homeless. It is the second warehouse fire in a week that has been attributed to squatters. A third fire at the Sevco warehouse south of the Arch is still under investigation.

St. Louis Fire Chief Dennis Jenkerson said to expect more of these fires this winter, especially if temperatures remain bitterly cold.

“With this type of year the homeless are looking for some place to stay,” Jenkerson said. “A lot of these buildings have old junk and they find different things to burn to stay warm, this one got out of control.”

Firefighters rescued two homeless men sleeping inside the burning abandoned building at 17th and Papin Thursday. They told investigators that five other people were staying there with them but left the building before the fire broke out.

A warehouse fire on south Broadway Sunday was also started by a warming fire. Investigators are still trying to determine if the people living there were homeless.

The problem of squatters is so widespread that Jenkerson said his fire crews are instructed to assume that all vacant buildings are occupied, until a sweep is done.

“People are ingenious on how they get into these buildings. They’ll take a board off and then put it back into place and we don’t know anybody is in there,” he explained. “All the buildings in the city that are vacant in our opinion could house the homeless, and we’re seeing it all the time.”


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