Jul 09, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
The fire that tore through a multi-family house in Solvay late Wednesday night left four families homeless, but neighbors say the fire was just another chapter in the property’s history.
Neighbors and displaced tenants said the four-apartment home at 121 Freeman Ave. began burning around 11 p.m. Wednesday night.
“Within ten minutes, flames were shooting out the window,” said Tracy Gilbert, who lives across the street. She was walking her dog when she noticed the smoke, and the flames were not far behind.
No one was injured in the blaze but some tenants were still waiting late Thursday morning for the building to be inspected so they could retrieve their belongings.
Louise Miller, who lived in a second-floor apartment with Ray Harp, was waiting to go in and get her medications. Miller said she arrived home from work around 6 a.m. to see her home destroyed.
But the real story is what led up to the fire, said Gilbert, who grew up in Solvay and moved back about 6 years ago.
Harp said he had served residents of the downstairs apartment with an eviction notice earlier the day of the fire. Solvay police chief Richard Cox verified the property manager of the building had issued an eviction notice for the tenants.
A few hours later, Solvay police were called to the downstairs apartment on a disturbance complaint. That apartment, Cox said, is where the fire apparently started less than two hours later, although it is still under investigation.
Gilbert and another Freeman Avenue resident, who preferred not be named, said they had witnessed the argument in the apartment about an hour and a half before the fire began, and saw the police there.
Earlier this month, two Solvay police officers were injured during a scuffle with a downstairs tenant at the house.
Gilbert’s neighbor, who has lived in Solvay on and off his whole life, said the fire and surrounding circumstances are indicative of a greater problem throughout the village.
“It would be nice if the village board would show some initiative and make people accountable,” he said.
Just two weeks ago, the board took a step in that direction by passing a local law that would establish a registry of rental properties and allow code enforcement officers to enter properties for inspection.
The law targets absentee landlords, who purchase properties and rent to tentants without regard for the condition of the structure or the actions of their tenants. Miller and Harp agreed their landlord lived in Skaneatleles and was rarely, if ever, in Solvay.
Earlier this year, a house at 113 Freeman Ave., just three houses down from last week’s fire, was destroyed by arson. Chad A. Balitz, 20, plead guilty to committing third-degree arson on Jan.3. Balitz was a resident of 121 Freeman Ave. at the time.