Investigation continues into weekend Roanoke fire

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ7) The investigation continues into what caused a fire in Southeast Roanoke over the weekend.

One house totally burned, Four more homes were damaged. Most of them were vacant.

That investigation is still ongoing. There was a lot of damage. The fire department is still trying to find out what caused the fire and exactly where it started. The fire is highlighting the need to do something with these vacant buildings.

It's an issue Roanoke City Councilman John Garland is well aware of.

“Well what most people say another fire in southeast because they keep popping up,” Garland said.

Sunday's fire started around 2:30 in the afternoon and spread. Smoke could be seen for miles. Monday, the damage was apparent.

Tim Dayton, REACH Executive Director, said, “Well it disappoints me just for the fact that I hate to see a house burn down. The architecture here in southeast is phenomenal.”

Tim Dayton is executive director of REACH. The organization is working on renovating this home in Southeast, and they've fixed parts of about 100 homes in the city.

“For things to change around here, the community first and foremost has to get involved,” he said.

“Before you can fix a problem you have to identify the extent of a problem,” said Garland.

After this fire, Garland talked with the city manager about ways to keep track of empty homes. But in many cases, the city's hands are tied.

“There's no law right now that says just because it's empty there's anything a city official can do,” said Garland.

Garland says part of the solution is getting more people be 'urban pioneers' and move into these neighborhoods.

He said, “I'd love to see more people step up and want to live in some of these neighborhoods because they're great neighborhoods -- with a little bit of help they can even be greater.”

Garland is also optimistic the new city manager will have new ideas on how to deal with empty and blighted homes in the city.