Who monitors vacant buildings? Code Enforcement points to property owners
ALBANY, GA (WALB) - There are still a lot of unanswered questions after a deadly fire at the vacant, old Albany Theatre.
One man, who police said was living in the building, died of smoke and soot inhalation after the building went up in flames early Wednesday morning.
Now, investigators are telling us multiple vagrants got inside through the fire escape in the rear of the building.
WALB News 10's Catherine Patterson looked into who is responsible for checking in on the vacant property.
According to Paul Forgey, Albany Dougherty Director of Planning, Development Services and Code Enforcement, it is the property owner's responsibility to regularly check their properties, including vacant buildings, to make sure everything is secure.
For most cases, the only time Code Enforcement gets involved is when there is a complaint about the vacant property, like overgrown grass, broken windows, open doors, or homeless people living inside.
But Forgey said there was no open code case on the old Albany Theatre building, which means Forgey wasn't aware of any concerns or complaints about the property.
"I think that people should check on their property regularly," said Forgey. "It's just part of protecting their investment and protecting their community."
Forgey explained the responsibility of monitoring vacant properties mainly lies on the property owner.
The vacant, old Albany Theatre building that went up in flames early Wednesday morning is owned by ADICA, or Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority.
When asked if Forgey knew whether the building was secure before the fire, Forgey responded, "I have no idea. I know that the doors have been locked and that there's a chain on the gate in the front. But whether it was at the time, I know that that's under investigation at the time, so I can't say."
Forgey said the only time Code Enforcement would have been called in to check on the property would be if there were complaints or concerns by the property owner or neighbors.
And according to Forgey, there were none.
"There's a lot going on that we are working on that is complaint driven. So if a building is vacant and unused but is in good condition and nobody is complaining about it, then there won't be any reason for us to pursue it or to investigate it," he said.
Albany fire crews spent several hours battling the two-alarm fire at the North Jackson Street building Wednesday.
Albany Police said three men, believed to be homeless and living inside the building, had to be rescued.
Afterward, another man believed to be living there as well was found dead from smoke and soot inhalation.
Forgey said if you are a resident or business owner living next to a vacant building, keep a watchful eye on the property.
Call Code Enforcement if you see broken windows, open doors, or anyone inside the property who should not be.
Forgey could not provide information as to when the last time ADICA checked on the property, or how often they monitored it.
We have reached out to ADICA as well as the City Manager's office for a comment.
We're told they're working on a statement.
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