Eviction notice followed by house fire

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.

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