Preventing fires from happening in empty buildings

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Vacant buildings can be a problem for any town, and during the winter they can become a home for squatters and mischief. In recent months, fire has damaged a few empty buildings in the Northland. Although the fires can start for a number of reasons, one concern for fire fighters is when people seek shelter from the cold inside the empty buildings.

Chief Shawn Krizaj of the Duluth Fire Department says it is dangerous when people use vacant buildings to get try and stay warm.

“We understand it’s brutal out there. We understand it is dangerous out there,” Chief Krizaj said. “We want the community to look for safer resources that are available as opposed to going into a vacant building and trying to stay warm in a place like the Esmond.”

First responders say their main priority is to make sure the building is empty before fighting the flames.

“A problem we have with vacant building is showing up as a fire department; where you think a building is vacant and our priority is going to be life safety," says Superior Battalion Chief Cameron Vollbrecht.

If a vacant building is occupied, it will take time to put out the fire with crews priority is saving people lives. There is a probability that it could delay the firefighters from fighting the actual fire at hand.

Authorities say the cause of the Esmond/Seaway Hotel building has not yet been determined, however they did say there have been issues with people seeking shelter inside.

If you see someone going in or out of a building that you know to be vacant or deserted, you should call your local law enforcement office.

There are a number of places that people in need of shelter or a place to stay, contact the Rainbow Center, the Damiano Center and The Ruth House to name a few.