PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — The City of Peoria is seeing a slight uptick in intentionally set fires leading to more emergency demolitions.

Peoria Fire Chief Shawn Sollberger said 22% of fires so far this year were due to arson. That’s up from 20% in 2022.

The demolished properties are typically vacant properties and poorly maintained structures in the East Bluff and Southside.

“Those are the two areas we are struggling with,” said Sollberger.

Emergency demolitions are also happening faster thanks to increased funding and internal flexibility with the city.

“The reason why it seems like that there’s more demolitions is because we are doing them quicker. Over the course of the last few years, it used to be quite a process to get demolitions done…but it could take days, if not weeks to take a structure down,” said Sollberger.

Sollberger said the fire commander on scene decides if the property needs to be set for emergency demolition.

“They determine whether or not there’s any type of structural instability or danger to community, and then they will be in contact with Community Development,” he said.

More than 660 fires have caused about $11 million in property damages in 2023, with pre-incident structure values topping $1 billion, Sollberger said.