What to do when a vacant structure fills you with dread

Neighbors called the vacant structure a long-term threat.

SAN ANTONIO — The fire that burned a long-vacant house on Hawthorne Street Wednesday morning was so hot it scorched the houses on either side of it.

South-side neighbors near Interstate 35 and Malone told firefighters that transients had been in and out of the structure for years.

Vannity Villarreal said she was on the way to school when she saw the smoke and called 911.

“I saw the big fire flames,” Villarreal said, adding that the dispatcher connector her to the Good Sam app so that she could share live video of the fire with first responders.

“I was glad no one was in there because I know people have been staying there,” Villarreal said.

The incident commander agreed.

Chief Russell Johnson said the first arriving companies found the house fully involved, adding “The roof itself had already started collapsing.”

Johnson said the home had no utility service, making the cause of the blaze suspicious.

The extensive damage, he said, was bad enough that they asked for and began immediate demolition of the compromised structure.

“We’ve got code coming out to demolish the house because it’s too dangerous for us to go into,” Johnson said.  

Johnson said like with many old, abandoned homes, fast moving fires can be a real danger to neighbors and their homes.

One neighbor went to the hospital during the fire and a relative said the man was in ICU being treated for a serious health incident related to the stress of the fire.

The city’s 311 call center is set up to help residents who are concerned about dangerous structures in their neighborhood.

They say calling the 311 help line is the easiest way to access assistance, but you can also find their online resources here.

In addition to older homes that might need help, code officials said there are special considerations for structures handled by the Office of Historic Preservation.

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