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Greenfield fire places spotlight on abandoned homes

Jason Cato
| Monday, June 4, 2007, 12:00 p.m.

A Sunday fire inside a debris-filled Greenfield row house had neighbors complaining that more needs to be done to protect people living near abandoned properties in the city.

"We just want something done about these abandoned houses," said Alexis Balough, 60, who has lived on Delevan Street since 1966, when all of the nearly two dozen units on the block-long street were occupied and well-maintained.

Around 7:30 a.m., a fire started in the basement of a neglected dwelling situated third from the end of an eight-unit complex in the 4100 block of Delevan Street. Neighbors said the two-bedroom units were built about 130 years ago and do not have firewalls.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 8:20 a.m., Second District Battalion Chief Keith Bradley said.

Fire damaged an adjacent unit, and all of the units in the building had smoke damage, Bradley said. An elderly resident was hospitalized, he said.

"I was extremely happy we contained the fire to a unit and a half," Bradley said. "The way those things are constructed, we could have lost them all."

Joyce Pastorius, 59, who lives three doors down from the unit that caught fire, said she awoke to a smoke-filled home.

"We're lucky it wasn't another Hazelwood," Pastorius said.

In January, a five-alarm fire swept through a row house on Path Way, Hazelwood, critically injuring one person and leaving about two dozen homeless. A 12-year-old boy was accused of starting the blaze inside a unit that had been abandoned for several years. A dozen units were destroyed in the fire.

In November, a four-alarm fire ripped through a Morningside row house, destroying seven units on Baker Street. Fourteen residents were left homeless, although no serious injuries were reported.

City officials began demolishing abandoned houses last year as part of a project to eliminate criminal-plagued and derelict properties within 1,000 feet of public schools.

Residents along Delevan Street want more to be done, especially for blighted properties that are not near schools but pose dangers to neighbors.

The unit that burned yesterday had been neglected for years, they said. Another unit across the street has been abandoned and in disrepair for about eight years, they said. It was boarded up a few months ago.

"If a place is abandoned for a year, neighbors should be able to go to somebody and get something done," Pastorius said.

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