OKLAHOMA CITY – The recent fire at the old Columbus Elementary School is the ninth incident firefighters responded to since 2015, and neighbors want to know when something will be done to protect their community.
“We are no stranger to this structure. We have responded to structure fires in the past,” said Oklahoma City Fire Department Capt. David Macy.
Class has been out since 2014, but there is still plenty of activity happening in the old Columbus Elementary School.
“People breaking in, starting fires. Lots of gun shots, lots of violence,” said Jesus Celdon who lives across the street.
Firefighters responded to the vacant building for another fire Tuesday. They're still unable to determine how it started.
“Just because no utilities, no gas or electrical service to the structure,” Macy said.
The one thing they do know is that it started on the second floor. Since 2015, firefighters have responded nine times to the abandoned building. Seven times for a fire inside, two more for a fire on the grass and in the trash.
Neighbors are now calling the one-time learning center a hot spot for illegal activity.
“You never know what could happen. It is just a building open abandoned any everything,” said Celdon.
In 2015, Oklahoma City Public Schools said they were still weighing their options about what to do with the property. But almost five years later, there's no word on what will be done.
A spokeswoman told News 4 a security officer monitors the building along with three other vacant schools in the city. But our crews couldn't help but notice the front door wide open while we were there. There was also no security officer on site.
Firefighters are now worried even more calls will come once the weather turns cooler.
“We have a team that can make contact with them and get them a place to stay if they need to, opposed to staying in a vacant structure and lighting a fire to keep warm and getting themselves or someone else injured,” said Macy.
It is not not clear if there have ever been any arrests for the fires in years past.
The fire department encourages residents who live near these types of structures to be vigilant. They also ask those who own vacant property and structures to check them regularly, helping to ensure they remain secured.