HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) – Southeast Houston neighbors say a vacant Houston ISD building doesn't sit empty often, and they wonder if the district did enough to protect the land before a fire broke out.

On Tuesday, the former HISD media center building near the intersection of Telephone Road and Griggs Road caught fire. Houston fire officials said the building had been vacant for more than five years.

It was a place that should have been empty, but neighbors became worried when the flames rose into the sky.

“At least there was no one there because there were a lot of people in the complex – we were worried,” said Paul Mounobi.

They were scared because the empty building on Telephone Road was not usually empty.

“It’s rare to see people during the day,” explained Mounobi. “Most of the time it’s at night. At 1 or 2 in the morning, you can see (someone) going in there and probably (see) them sleeping.”

Mounobi said he saw more than he slept. He believes he witnessed illegal activity.

SEE PREVIOUS STORY: Fire engulfs southeast Houston building that neighbors call a magnet for crime

ABC13 was the first to show the dramatic flames of an intense gunfight. Eyewitness News is getting new information from neighbors who say they have to deal with the nuisance building.

Other neighbors told ABC13 something similar. They said the problem was an old fence that wasn't keeping people out.

Neighbors say it was replaced a few months ago. Eyewitness News asked HISD if it had done enough to protect the property.

They didn't respond.

ABC13 asked the Houston Police Department if anyone had called them about these concerns, but they had not heard any reports in the past six months. There were three calls to 311, but nothing about people on the property.

Mounobi explained why he didn't call the police.

“You just mind your own business because you don’t know who is who,” Mounobi said.

Firefighters have not ruled out the possibility that someone was inside and started the fire. On Wednesday, arson investigators used a drone to collect evidence and searched for surveillance video.

Firefighters said the property was securely sealed when they arrived Tuesday night.

But it wasn't good enough for some neighbors who say they've witnessed people on HISD's vacant lots for years.

“A lot of people can be there. You don’t know who’s there,” Mounobi said. “I said, 'They could be homeless. They can be someone else. Just for safety reasons, they have to at least close the building.”

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https://abc13.com/vacant-hisd-building-fire-houston-isd-former-media-center-arson-investigation-telephone-road/14612515/



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