Topekans ask city to tear down vacant buildings after multiple arsons

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Topeka Fire responded to two fires Thursday morning. Investigators believe both were intentionally set.

Charles Anderson has live near 16th and Polk for over three years. This morning he woke up to a fire up the block. He said the house on fire, 1523 SW Polk, has been vacant for at least two years. It’s one of several vacant houses on the block.

“I think they oughta tear some of them down. Do something,” said Anderson.

The city of Topeka said it’s not that simple. Sasha Haehn, director of neighborhood relations, said the city can’t just tear down vacant or abandoned properties. They have to attempt to find the owner.

“We are required by our international property maintenance codes, our local law and also state and the constitution to provide due process,” said Haehn. “We’ll send them a certified letter and if it gets returned then we publish in the newspaper and we post that notification on the property.”

Haehn said if the property is unsecured they’ll board up the doors so that kids or homeless people can’t get inside. She said the city can get a court order to say that the property is unsafe and have it demolished. She said that usually takes at least 90 days.

“In some cases we’ll do an emergency securement if we know that there’s bad stuff going on there or if it’s dangerous,” said Haehn.

Haehn said the city typically gives property owners time to deal with the issues. She said Topekans have every right to keep vacant properties, as long as they’re kept up to code.

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