concrete basement steps, exterior - soil washed out from under them

Hope someone here can give me some helpful information about this. Here are some photos that might make it more clear.
http://members.bellatlantic.net/~vze3jrb8/holes /
Basically looks like rain water has washed out the soil over the years. House is about 50 yrs old. Seems like quite a sizeable void under the steps.
I have several questions about this.
Can I just shovel dirt in to fill the void wait another 50 years and see how its doing?
Or, fill it with concrete?
Where HAS the dirt gone?
If it requires a professional, what type of person would I call?
Thanks a lot, you guys are great and always come up with helpful suggestions!
Mike
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taken as one-arm-in-the-hole point'n'shoots. As to where the dirt went- is bottom of stairwell, or any drain there or in basement floor, full of mud? Most of it looks like simple settling, although you would think a 50 year old house would be done with that. Did you or a neighbor do any major yard regrading that would change drainage? Are there new holes anywhere else in yard? In many parts of country, this was a very wet spring- if preceeding years were extra-dry, that may be enough to explain it. I only saw a few animal holes there, taking advantage of the predug shelter. If concrete is still uncracked, I'd definitely try the cheap solution first- shovel the space full of pea gravel or sand (you'd never be able to tamp simple dirt down there), or have a mudjacking company pump it full of slurry. You may get another 50 years out of it before you have to bust it out and repour the steps and slab. Looks like a good retaining wall- any cracks in the mortar joints on the brick, or inside the house right there?
I don't think it is anything to lose sleep over- more of a curiosity than anything else.
aem sends...
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On Sun, 08 Aug 2004 22:52:42 GMT, "ameijers"

Yes, they were indeed arm-in-the-hole shots. Who knows how long its been like this, we just bought the house last fall. Don't have any reason to think its recent.
There's a bit of evidence of water on the inside basement wall. Its painted block and the paint's started to crackle off a bit. Haven't seen any actual water there at that location. Basement is half unfinished and half old finished, so that's not a huge concern. Also haven't seen any mud anywhere. The drain at the bottom of the steps seems to drain well.
We have had wet carpet twice. First time was when we moved in, after a hurricane dumped buckets of water on us. Gutters hadn't been cleaned yet and overflowed dumping water at the foundation. 2nd time was a few weeks ago. Again huge amounts of rain and drain at bottom of steps was partially blocked by several leaves. Appears that the water rose and came through the door.
Mike
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