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Multiple vacant rowhomes 'condemned' after fire in Southeast Baltimore

Multiple vacant rowhomes 'condemned' after fire in Southeast Baltimore
Multiple vacant rowhomes 'condemned' after fire in Southeast Baltimore 02:43

BALTIMORE -- A fire destroyed multiple rowhomes in Southeast Baltimore before firefighters put it out early Monday morning, the Baltimore Fire Department said.

One of the rowhomes' owners told WJZ they've been vacant for years, and there's been repeated incidents of people breaking into them.

Vacant properties has been a problem the city has struggled to addressed, but recently has ramped up efforts to take care of them.

Units responded around 3 a.m. to the 3900 block of Pulaski Highway at Haven Street, where they found "heavy fire and smoke conditions coming from multiple structures," officials said. No one was hurt in all of this.

The fire was completely extinguished as of 6 a.m. The cause of the fire is under investigation. 

By the afternoon, the mess of the firefight remained. Signs were put up on all the rowhomes noting they've been condemned.

Kathy Ruffner lives near where this fire happened. 

Fires at vacant properties hit too close to home, because years ago, one right next to her home was set ablaze.

"When they were renovating it, [people] were still going in there, sneaking in, and sleeping in the basement," Ruffner said. "[On the day of the fire] my mail carrier banged on my door and said, 'You gotta get out of there.' When I looked out, there were flames shooting out."

In December, Mayor Brandon Scott announced a plan to invest $3 billion over 15 years to address up to 45,000 vacant properties, as well as at-risk structures and vacant properties.

Done in partnership with the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC) and Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), the plan will use city, state and private funds. At this time, there's still no timeline for this plan.

When it was announced, several told WJZ how needed this was.

"The city needs it and we need our elected officials to stand behind what the community needs," said Baltimore resident Charese Jordan Moore.

Ruffner joins that sentiment, worried of the potential injuries -- even deaths -- that can happen.

"Whenever I do hear a fire engine, I pray, 'Please God, let them be okay. Don't let them lose everything,'" she said.

There's also a bill in the state legislature that would allow city leaders to set a special property tax rate for vacant properties

It still has a long way to go before it gets to Gov. Wes Moore's desk for a signature, but it would go into effect in June if passed as is.

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