Hurt, confusion after suspicious fires destroy Kalamazoo homes

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Authorities are investigating two suspicious fires in Kalamazoo overnight, one of which destroyed four houses in the city’s Northside neighborhood.

The first fire broke out late Tuesday night on W. North Street between Woodward and Staples avenues. At least six firetrucks responded.

Fire officials told News 8 that three of the homes were abandoned. An 84-year-old woman was displaced from her home of more than 40 years. All the buildings are considered total losses.

“I got up and looked out the window and the middle house, it’s gone now, was just a blazing in the back of it. I just grabbed my purse and my phone and just came out of the house,” recalled Nancy Harwood, who was in bed when the fire sparked.

Her home later caught fire. 

Twala Lockett-Jones, who bought a home in August that also caught fire, had plans of remodeling. 

“It’s just been a whole array of emotion, just confusion, not understanding why somebody would do this,” Lockett-Jones said.

Lockett-Jones is a real estate agent. She planned to change the historic property into four affordable housing units and a tea house business. Those dreams came to a screeching halt when the fire spread to her home.

“(My tenants) come with evictions on their record, they come with low income, they come with credit challenges and so nobody else will rent to them and so a lot of those folks we end up providing housing for,” a tearful Lockett-Jones said as she stood in front of a charred home.

A fifth house received minor damage from the heat of the fire, according to a Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety news release.

Officials say the fire started in a home that was vacant, which is why they are calling it suspicious.

A firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion. No one else was hurt.

The homeowners say they know they’ll come back from this stronger.

“I love my community even more just for the outpouring of support for me and my family,” Lockett-Jones said. “Whoever you are, you didn’t win. Evil is not going to win here.”

The North Street fire is only a few blocks from where another fire broke out at a vacant building early Tuesday on Paterson Street between Douglas and Staples avenues. That fire was labeled suspicious. It is too early to draw a connection between the fires.

Investigators believe a second fire that broke out at a vacant house in the Edison neighborhood early Wednesday morning is suspicious, as well.

A fire damaged a vacant house on Stockbridge Avenue in Kalamazoo’s Edison neighborhood Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Authorities were called shortly after 1 a.m. to the second house fire on Stockbridge Avenue between Portage and Race streets. When they got to the scene, the house was fully engulfed in flames but firefighters were able to stop it from spreading to nearby structures, according to a KDPS news release.

Anyone with information on the suspicious fires is asked to call KDPS at 269.337.8994 or Silent Observer at 269.343.2100.

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