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Nick Mosby Introduces Bills To Battle Baltimore's Vacant House Problem

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- City Council President Nick Mosby has introduced three new bills to address the problems posed by the thousands of vacant properties in Baltimore.

The three bills address emergency response fees, registration fees and penalties, and complaint fines.

The first bill is tailored to address emergency response fees. It requires vacant property owners to pay for emergency response services provided by the Baltimore City Fire Department, according to a shortlist provided by Mosby.

The bill allows the fire department to recover costs associated with fire investigations, incidents involving hazardous materials, water incidents, and other incidents that involve fire personnel.

The second bill strengthens the city's vacant registration process by incentivizing vacant property owners to address outstanding code violations and work towards deregistering their property as a vacant, per the shortlist.

The third bill incentivizes vacant property owners to address complaints about their property by establishing a fee structure for repeated substantiated 311 service requests, according to the shortlist.

"We understand and know that vacant properties pose a serious threat to residents' public health and safety," Mosby said in a statement. "Addressing vacant properties in this city we love will require a multi-tiered approach, starting with holding vacant property owners accountable." 

City officials have focused their attention on Baltimore's vast collection of vacant houses—which number at over 14,000—in the aftermath of a fire that killed three firefighters.

Lt. Paul Butrim, Lt. Kelsey Sadler, and Kenny Lacayo died after part of a vacant house in the 200 block of South Stricker Street collapsed on them in January.

A fourth firefighter, John McMaster, was injured when part of the vacant house collapsed on the firefighters. McMaster was treated for his injuries and released from Shock Trauma.  

That house that stole their lives had been vacant since 2010.

The fire that killed the three firefighters was just one in a long line of fires at vacant buildings. But fires aren't the only problem.

Firefighters have encountered dangerous conditions while battling the fires that have chewed away at those vacant buildings. 

They have also encountered strange situations while performing their duties.

For example, on March 14, firefighters had to work with police on subduing a man they pulled out of a vacant house with smoke rising from it.

They were sent to the 1100 block of N. Carrollton Avenue at 12:08 a.m., according to a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Fire Department.

Once there, they found a squatter and a burn barrel with flames that damaged 1105 N. Carrollton Avenue, the spokesperson said.

Firefighters removed the squatter from the house and—not long after—he got into a verbal dispute with neighborhood residents that evolved into a fistfight.

Then, on March 18, police and firefighters worked together to remove human remains from a vacant house in the 2000 block of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The human remains were transported to the medical examiner's office to be identified and to determine the cause of death.

Days later, on March 20, they were asked to battle a crawling fire that damaged three vacant houses.

Baltimore Firefighters IAFF Local 734 said on its social media account that firefighters battled the large blaze in the 500 block of Presstman Street.

Union officials later confirmed that the same three houses were also on fire in February.

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