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More than 40% of building fires are calls to empty properties

Estimated 40,000 empty properties across the City
Posted: 3:31 PM, May 17, 2022
Updated: 2022-05-17 15:31:40-04
Baltimore City Fire

BALTIMORE — The deaths of three firefighters battling a fire in a vacant home in late January prompted WMAR-2 News to take a closer look at the vacant properties across the City.

And we've discovered that not every empty property is necessarily vacant.

Today, we've compiled data on building fires from the first four months of the year.

We requested all the fire call locations so far this year from the Baltimore City Fire Department and we've gone through the address of every building or dwelling fire from January through April.

Here's what we found:

More than 43% of all of the building fire calls were to empty properties, either unoccupied or vacant. A little more than that, 47% were to properties that were either owner-occupied or licensed rentals.

A few of the building fires listed in the data did not have exact addresses, which accounts for the N/A category in the pie chart.

We also found that about 1 in 5 properties changed status after the fire.

Calculating the percentages, we see a significant uptick in Vacant properties post-fires, to nearly 40%.

It's important to note these current stats might change. On average, if a vacancy notice came after a fire, it took an average of more than two weeks for that vacancy notice to be issued.

In fact, WMAR-2 News has learned that just yesterday, the 325 Furrow St. property was issued a vacant building notice by the City, 8 days after the fire where a man with gunshot wounds was found inside the burning building.

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As of May 17, 2022, the city has 14,835 open vacant building notices and nearly 26,000 properties that are registered as 'not owner-occupied' and not registered as a rental.

Based on these numbers from both Baltimore City's Open Data and from DHCD, there are likely around 40,000 properties that are sitting empty across the City. In the first four months of this year, 110 of these properties caught fire (a few of them more than once).