Three fires at vacant homes in Waterloo's University District since January

There’s worries about public safety as a stretch of homes on Columbia Street West near Albert Street in Waterloo continue to sit empty.

On Tuesday night, one of the dwellings went up in flames.

It’s the third vacant house in Waterloo’s university district to catch fire since January, according to Waterloo Fire Department deputy chief Jake Herring.

“The crews did a great job on Tuesday night getting the fire put out quickly so it didn’t catch to any of the exposed houses,” said Herring.

Herring said there’s always a risk when a building is vacant, and it’s best to have the homes occupied until construction for redevelopment can get underway.

“But if they are vacated - and often they are - we remind building owners, current owners, that when you have a vacant structure, the Ontario fire code requires you to have it secured and we do urge that it’s monitored frequently,” he said.

People who live in the area want to see something done with the homes.

“It’s not safe if people are entering illegally and fires are a very major thing,” said one.

“The flames thing is concerning,” said another. “Not necessarily concerned for my personal safety, I’m just frustrated in the way that investment and housing works in this area, and that these homes could’ve had people living in them.”

UNIVERSITY DISTRICT FIRES

November 28, 2020

An early morning blaze causes $500,000 worth of damage at an abandoned home on Columbia Street West near Albert Street.

March 24, 2022

An empty home at 252 Hemlock Street goes up in flames. Officials believe the fire originated in the basement. Damage to the home is estimated at $500,000

May 17, 2022

Another vacant home in the area of Columbia Street West and Albert Street catches fire. Officials say it is not considered suspicious.