Neighborhood Plagued By Vacant House Fires

One Omaha neighborhood is dealing with a rash of vacant house fires.

A vacant house at 17th and Fowler was destroyed by fire on Sunday. A neighbor believes the fire was intentionally set. He has surveillance video of a vehicle driving away that he believes may be involved.

“The surveillance footage showed a truck, that we really can't identify, leaving the scene,” said Paul Etheridge. “We believe they are the perpetrator of it. And as they were leaving the scene, there was a big explosion and ball of fire.”

Etheridge grew up in this neighborhood, and says in the last year, eight vacant houses in the area have burned.

“This house was just the last one,” Etheridge said. “The one up the block there has been set of fire twice. The house that was directly behind me, which is no longer there, was set on fire twice before it was finally demolished.”

His surveillance camera not only caught a vehicle driving away, but also shows what kind of head start the flames had before fire crews arrived.

Etheridge believes most of the fires in the neighborhood are the result of a drug war, that he and his family want no part of. But even his own garage has been set on fire.

“I'm just afraid one day I'm going to wake up to my house on fire. And my first thought is going to be, can i grab my cat and get out alive,” Etheridge said.

Surveillance cameras are just one of the security measures he and his family have taken.

“I want to live in the home where my family's grown up, where I've grown up,” he said. “I want to sleep at night without a gun under my pillow. That's really all i want.”

Etheridge says his family offered Omaha fire investigators a copy of his surveillance video. But he says they were not interested in it.

Omaha Fire Department spokesman, Battalion Chief Tim McCaw, says he wasn't aware of the video, but was checking with investigators to find out why they may have decided not to use it. But he says the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

If you have any information on the fire you are encouraged to call the Omaha Fire Department's arson tip line at 444-FIRE.

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