Fire-damaged home torn down

Published 1:23 am Saturday, October 10, 2009

One of the houses damaged by a fire that started in an adjacent house Thursday was torn down on Friday.

Fire investigators believe the blaze started in a vacant home at 119 St. James Ave. about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. The fire spread to the homes on both sides of the original blaze. The home at 121 St. James Ave. suffered severe damage, and was demolished Friday. An excavator loaded its remains, along with those from the original house, into a truck on Friday afternoon.

The house at 117 St. James Ave. has severe damage to the second story. Flames scorched the top of the second-floor porch. Fire and water restoration crews worked busily in and around the house, throwing debris out a second-story window into a roll-off container and carrying in shovels and heavy-duty trash bags.

A neighbor observing the cleanup said the vacant house — which collapsed during the fire Thursday morning — had been empty for at least three years. A total of six people were displaced from the homes on either side, according to city spokeswoman Debbie George. The Red Cross was assisting those families.

The vacant house was owned by Garcia Development LLC, according to city real estate assessment records. A phone number listed for the company has been temporarily disconnected, a message stated.

George said there had been some “code issues” at the house, but they were cosmetic in nature and had been resolved prior to the fire.

“They had to do with the house not being secure and the height of the grass,” George said.

Code officials had not been able to cite the owner, because letters were returned after they were not able to be served, George said. George said the city arranged for he house to be boarded up and for the grass to be cut.

Investigators do not expect to have determined the cause of the fire until sometime next week, George said.