Investigators are still looking into what caused a fire at the old Mega Auto Sales building in downtown Gulfport Sunday afternoon. It was an abandoned building at the intersection of 17th Street and 26th Avenue.
"Gulfport Police Department had checked the building the night before and had run some homeless people out of here," said Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan.
"Our investigation so far indicates that that's the only plausible reason we have for the fire. There was no electricity, no gas for the building, and we think that they had gotten in and tried to warm themselves, cooking, and caused the fire."
Chief Pat Sullivan says this has becoming an increasing problem in the city since Katrina, especially since there are few shelters where the homeless can go now.
"It's become a problem for the whole community. It's not just a problem for the fire department or the police department. Not only do we not them in the building because it's trespassing. It's just not safe," he said.
Chief Sullivan says police have been beefing up patrols around abandoned and damaged buildings in the area. He says owners of these abandoned properties can help keep fires like this one from happening.
"So right now, it's really important to us to get the owners, the property owners, or whoever is responsible for the building to board the building up or to put the no trespassing sign up. The other thing we're real interested in is if a business owner sees people going into a building they don't believe someone should be in, they need to call the police department," he said.