Arson investigators now say a Sunday afternoon fire at the former Lantana Apartments on NW 10th Street was intentionally set. It is far from the first time this has happened, but this fire had a slightly larger impact.
The peeling, green buildings that sat vacant on the property for years are finally getting a makeover, and the $20,000 in damage caused Sunday is a big set-back for construction crews.
Responding to the complex has become almost commonplace for firefighters. Battalion Chief Benny Fulkerson tells News 9 that fires have sparked in the empty buildings two to five times a year since 2010. “Before, they were extremely dilapidated,” remembers Fulkerson. “Staircases were in poor repair, holes in floors, just bad shape just from being vacant for so long.”
This is the second fire since renovations finally started in April. The new property owner has not responded to a request for comment, but firefighters had to tear through newly fixed ceilings and walls to extinguish the flames.
In the past, though, they would not even go inside. Fulkerson says, “There was no reason to put our firefighters in that kind of harm’s way for something that wasn’t even worth saving at that point.”
In this case, there was a life to save. No people were inside when firefighters arrived, but they did discover a dog that was badly burned. “They tried to provide oxygen and really just general supportive care to try to help the dog,” says Fulkerson.
Sadly, the dog had to be euthanized at a local veterinary clinic.
Investigators believe the arsonists got into the complex through large holes in the fence near the building they targeted. A woman who lives in the adjacent complex told News 9 the culprits are neighbors, but would not go into further detail.
Investigators say anyone with that kind of information should call the city's Arson Hotline. “That would be something that we could follow up on and actually determine who is doing this because we would like to put an end to this,” Fulkerson says.
That Arson Hotline is (405) 23-ARSON (27766). Tipsters may remain anonymous.