Recent fires were intentionally set, residents fear

Recent fires were intentionally set, residents fear

ACADEMY – Carl Solomon predicted that his house at 5107 Enright Ave. would catch fire. 

Sure enough, in the wee hours of Monday morning, about 3 a.m., he and his wife were awakened to a blazing fire that practically gutted the house next door. 

Flames then started stretching through his bedroom window. The Solomons were lucky that the strong and heavy smell of smoke awakened them. 

“If we hadn’t got up at the time that we did, we would have been dead in our home,” Solomon said. 

At first, he thought it was wood being burned to weather the seasonal drop in temperatures. Turns out it was more than wood. Most of the house next door to him was being eaten by fire. 

His prediction was dead on. 

What made him believe that his house would catch fire? 

Two week ago, a house across the street from him, about four parcels west, caught fire. Then another one on his street caught fire. 

Solomon and other residents grew more and more suspicious. A serial arsonist was in the neighborhood, they surmised. 

And because the two houses that had already caught fire were owned by the company that also acquired the Land Reutilization Authority house next door to him, he figured that house might be next and reach his. 

“I said, I have to very careful with my house because my house is right next door,” Solomon said after the first two houses caught fire. 

Now that it has, Solomon is furious. He has insurance, but he’s angry – like others in the  neighborhood – because he believes the fires are the work of a serial arsonist. 

“Someone is intentionally setting these fires, and they’re catching on to the homes next door to them,” he said. 

What has added to the suspicion of arson in the neighborhood is that two commercial buildings there recently suffered fire damage.

One was a church, slated to be donated as a meeting space along with housing in the recently formed Delmar Maker District. The buildings are right next door to one another in the 5100 block of Delmar Boulevard, just one block south of Solomon. 

While they are listed as owned by Bridge Delmar LLC, which has a Florida address, the principal address is 5200 Delmar Blvd. 

That’s the same address as the Third Degree Glass Factory. Jim McKelvey and Doug Auer are the co-founders. They are also co-founders of the Magic House @ MADE, which too is in the 5100 block of Delmar. Through Green Line LLC, they also own the two burned homes on Enright. 

In a statement, Auer said: “We are devastated by these events and we want to assure our community that we are doing everything we can to find out who is doing this. We are partnering with the St. Louis police, the fire department and the Academy/Sherman Park Neighborhood Association to find those responsible.” 

Law enforcement officials have said they are investigating the fires.

Shameem Clark-Hubbard, alderwoman of the 26th Ward, was out Monday talking with residents as well as the owners of the burned properties. Neither the glass factory nor MADE nor any of the fires is in Shameem’s ward, but the proposed Makers District does encompass it.

“I just want to make sure that the good things that are happening in this community continue to happen, and I hope we find out who is doing this so they can be held responsible and we move forward with development in this area,” the alderwoman said. 

Auer’s promise of action to find the person or people responsible is welcome news to Solomon, who said he believed that there was an arsonist who was trying to build up a land bank in the area – and run blacks out of the neighborhood in the process. 

“There is a lot of development going on around here, and something fishy is going on,” Solomon said. 

“But they are not going to silence me, because if die because of telling the truth, then so be it. I’m not going anywhere, and I am not afraid,” he said.

“This my neighborhood.”

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    There is historical precedence for this that white St Louisans could identify with: the clearance of native Scots off their land by landlords. The landlords wanted to turn out the tenant farmers so make way for more profitable large estates and sheep.
    Sometimes this included burning the thatch roof of the stone or peat house to keep the tenants from returning.

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