The Feb. 12 house fire that lit the debate on zombie houses in Cottage Grove is still under investigation. According to Cottage Grove Police Chief Scott Shepherd, the department has a person of interest but no arrests have been made.
The house on Adams Ave. has been vacant for years and part of the small army of zombie homes—houses that have been abandoned by their owners, usually due to foreclosure—in Cottage Grove. On Feb. 12, a shed on the property caught fire and threatened the tree lines separating the property from neighboring houses. At the time, Cottage Grove City Manager Richard Meyers said there had been a handful of arson cases in the city and shortly after the fire, the police log kept by the department reported an individual confessing to the crime only to be ruled out after questioning by law enforcement.
The fire sparked a call to action from neighbors who said the house, and those like it, posed a danger to the community. Just weeks before the incident, the city council voted to allow the city to take possession of a separate zombie house located on 6th St. after the house became a public health hazard. Squatters had been living in the home without water and city officials reported a rat infestation so severe, an employee with the company contracted with the city to exterminate the pests grew ill at the scene.