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Residents say firefighter's death resulted from ongoing problems with vacant buildings

After St. Louis firefighter Benjamin Polson lost his life in a vacant building fire on Cote Brilliante Avenue, neighbors hope city leaders will take action.

ST. LOUIS — Barbara Carter points out all of the vacant buildings around her home on Cote Brilliante Avenue.

"This one, this one, then there's two over there, um there's two on the corner," Carter said.

A concern she and her family members have dealt with for more than 25 years.

"It's scary because you never know who's going to pop out of a house on you and that's why I was afraid, because when this one was vacant, I could be sitting right here and they was coming through here," Jacci Henderson said.

Earlier this week, Dennis Jenkerson, chief for the St. Louis Fire Department, discussed the safety risks these empty spaces pose during the winter months.

"We've got some unhoused individuals in the city who look for vacant buildings to go into and stay warm and to stay warm they start a fire and then we have a vacant building fire," Jenkerson said.

The St. Louis Vacancy Collaborative's website tracks over 10,000 vacant buildings and over 14,000 vacant lots in the city alone.

"I've been calling probably about five years downtown to get houses boarded up, torn down around here," Carter said.

After St. Louis firefighter Benjamin Polson lost his life fighting a fire in a vacant building just a few doors down, Carter and Jacci Henderson hope city leaders will take action.

MORE: St. Louis firefighter dies after roof collapses in vacant house

"We had to lose a firefighter. That house should've been gone. That is so unnecessary, and for the city to have to lose one of their people because of their negligence," Henderson said.

"Give people money to fix these homes up, so they can live in them rather than see them vacant," Carter said.

Over the last three years, unoccupied buildings and lots have cost the city over $3 million in unpaid taxes.

The city has demolished about 1,800 vacant buildings since 2016.

RELATED: Fighting the vacancy problem that plagues St. Louis neighborhoods