HIGHLAND PARK (WWJ) – Four homes were destroyed or damaged by fire overnight in Highland Park. Three of them were already abandoned, while the fourth saw two people barely escape with their lives.
Officials say the blaze began around 3 a.m. Thursday at an abandoned home on Connecticut Street, between John R and Brush streets. From there, the fire spread to three other houses, one of which was occupied.
Brandon Webb said he is thankful that he and his grandmother were able to escape.
“Someone started a fire at the third house right here. From that house, it caught a fire to that other house and then the fire from that house caught onto our house,” he said. “The guy that lives there came and knocked on the door and woke everyone up, and the firefighters or the police, one of them, they came and got my grandmother down.”
Now, all that’s left standing of the abandoned homes are their chimneys. Webb’s home suffered significant fire and water damage. The American Red Cross responded to the fire to assist Webb and his grandmother, who are now displaced.
George Hubbell, Webb’s uncle, doesn’t understand why these abandoned homes aren’t torn down before it gets to this point.
“When they leave the houses and don’t tear them down, this is the kind of stuff that happens. Somebody has got a good house that gets caught on fire because two abandoned houses didn’t get torn down. There needs to be something done about that, you know, she could have died in that house. Thank God the firemen did their job and got her out of there,” he said.
Officials are still trying to determine a cause of the fire, but believe it was started by squatters.
“If you set a house on fire for no point, no reason, there’s something wrong with you,” Hubbell said.
An investigation is ongoing.