Burnt House

Two juveniles were arrested for setting fire to a city-owned house at 1009 N. Oak St. just before 4 p.m. Sunday, April 8. Union police said the home was unoccupied at the time of the fire. The juveniles admitted to starting the fire, police said. The report was forwarded to the juvenile authorities. Union Fire Chief Russ Hamilton said the two juveniles were playing with matches and started the fire. The city purchased the home earlier this year as a part of a plan to revitalize the neighborhood, said City Administrator Russell Rost.  Missourian Photo/Joe Barker.

Two juveniles were arrested for setting fire to a city-owned house Sunday.

Union fire crews were called to 1009 N. Oak St. just before 4 p.m. for a report of a fire. A house had smoke and visible flames showing.

Union police said the home was unoccupied at the time of the fire. Officers located two 11-year-old boys near the scene.

The juveniles admitted to starting the fire, police said. The report was forwarded to the juvenile authorities.

Union Fire Chief Russ Hamilton said the two juveniles were playing with matches and started the fire. Hamilton said the house was secured, but the boys broke into the home by going through the boarded-up basement.

Once inside, Hamilton said the boys went up to the second floor and used matches to start a fire. Hamilton said he was unsure of the boys’ intent.

Union fire crews were on the scene for more than two hours. Hamilton said they were extra cautious because of the condition of the building.

Because the building was “abandoned,” Hamilton said his crews had to be careful about its structural integrity.

Hamilton said the main floor had “quite a few” weak spots so his department was careful putting people inside the building.

Eventually crews were able to contain and put out the fire.

St. Clair and Boles crews provided assistance. There were no injuries reported.

The property had been heavily damaged by fire before the city purchased it earlier this year and was damaged even more in Sunday’s blaze. Rost said the city always was planning on razing the building, even before Sunday’s fire.

The home has been blocked off with yellow tape and no trespassing signs are posted.

Since the building was slated for demolition, the fire didn’t really impact the city’s plans, Rost said. Still he was concerned about the fire because it unnecessarily put firefighters at risk.

Home Background

The city purchased the home earlier this year as a part of a plan to revitalize the neighborhood, said City Administrator Russell Rost. City officials finalized the sale on the foreclosed properties located at 1009 and 1019 N. Oak St. and the Central Avenue apartments, located at 208 Central Ave.

Rost said the goal is to work with Habitat for Humanity or a similar group to get three to four new homes built at the site of all the city-owned properties.

All of the properties were purchased from the lenders, Robert and Pamela Ashcraft, Des Peres, for $57,999.28 — one-fourth of the assessed valuation listed by the county assessor.

Previous owners were Warren and Ellen Carroll.

The city started its plan to buy the properties last fall. At the time, Trinity Presbyterian Church members volunteered to help clean up the exteriors as part of a volunteer mission. Members cut brush and removed debris to help get the property in compliance with city codes.

Eight truckloads of vegetation and debris were removed. During that cleanup, the property owners notified the city that they could not maintain the property and were going to allow it to go into foreclosure.

Rost began working with the lender to acquire the properties. He also has met with representatives with Habitat for Humanity, who have an interest in working with the city.

Rost said he hopes to begin the removal of the city properties in early summer.