Extra: Burning Blight

You may think that vacant houses have no impact on your everyday life, but some city leaders beg to differ.  Everyone can agree that they’re an eyesore in neighborhoods all across Montgomery.  City leaders say they can also be dangerous, leading to crime and house fires in your neighborhood.

Vacant house fire numbers released to Alabama News Network show this is a problem every year: 44 in 2016, 50 in 2017, and 47 in 2018.

Montgomery City Councilman Tracy Larkin says the city has a vacant building problem that he says should have been handled years ago.

“The city does not have a single piece of legislation that focuses on or directly addresses the issues of vacant properties,” Larkin shared.

Larkin says vacant buildings just lead to more problems, declining property values, fires and crime, especially in the winter months.

“It’s not fair to allow these buildings to continue to remain vacant in neighborhoods, endangering the lives of people who live in close proximity to them,” Larkin added.

While an investigation into a vacant house fire is no different than an occupied house fire, it can present more challenges for investigators.  How does a fire start with no electricity, no occupants and no witnesses?  Lt. K. R. Peoples with the Montgomery Fire Department says much of the responsibility comes back to the property owner, even if no one is living in the house.

“It is still your responsibility to make sure that property is properly secured and you know go by every once and awhile,” he explained.

The Montgomery City Council is working on an ordinance to address vacant properties around the city.  It would require property owners to register vacant buildings with the city and charge them if buildings remain vacant for extended periods of time.  Larkin hopes that cuts down on vacant house fires and other issues.

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