Alleged program burns abandoned homes in the middle of the night

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VENICE, IL (KTVI)-- A family of six wakes up to feel the heat from a fire next door, then they found out it was no accident.

The fire department reportedly set the fire on purpose and a homeowner says she has hidden camera -proof.

The fire was set at an abandoned home on Abbott Street in Venice, Illinois. Laronda Mathis lives next door and captured video on her cell phone. She described it as waking up to `hell` as she woke her five kids and ran.

Almost every window she said cracked that night, pop, pop, like fireworks said 5-year-old Jayden.

A couple neighbors, who did not want to be identified, said they saw the fire department set the fire. They said it`s part of a regular plan to burn abandoned homes in the middle of the night.

Yet she says this dangerous pit remains and all her broken windows. She confronted Venice`s fire chief and recorded video on her cell phone.

She says Chief Thomas Brent told her that another firefighter was supposed to warn her.

She said he also promises on the recording to fix her windows, but the burn was Good Friday, more than a month ago.

FOX 2 went to the fire department to get a response. It appeared vacant. We found a volunteer firefighter in sleeping quarters who told me the chief was not available. He promised to tell the chief- we need answers.


  • Mascoutan

    Chris – please review your articles before you post. You do great work, but are a bit lacking in writing the articles… Thank you!

  • Bob

    In some cases, the only difference between an arsonist and a volunteer fireman is whether or not he is wearing his hat.

    • Mascoutan

      Bob – you make a good point. Maybe the fire department is just being proactive to get ahead of the criminal arsonists?

  • Austin Range

    Burning down a property on purpose is legal however it requires that the property have no active leans or all leans be relinquished, a written statement from the insurance company authorizing the destruction of the property and acknowledgement that such policy is no longer claimable, assessment of hazardous chemicals and a fire team present to set the fire properly for minimal danger and contain the fire should conditions become favorable to spreading. I question if this fire crew was properly authorized to do this and did ensure no active leans existed, if so someone may have owned that property by default when it was intentionally burned meaning the fire department would be liable for any and all debts against the house. They certainly failed to ensure public safety also how is this that much cheaper than tearing down, a small house could be torn down and hauled off in a couple days, this method has far more risk and a similar time frame just possibly less haul away.

  • Flame-Out

    I have been on a department that burned buildings, but we were on the property, setup and ready before the fire was set. This is ridiculously stupid the way they are doing this…

  • John Roberts

    All you have managed to report is what one person is alleging the rumors of the neighbors. How much better the story would have been if you had taken the time to verify a few simple facts. For instance, what do the dispatch tapes for the night of the fire say? What do the town officials say? Since this could result in arson charges or worse it is a shame that simple investigation seems to be going the way of the dodo.

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