Fire crews battle early morning blaze at vacant downtown Albany motel

Fire crews battle early morning blaze at vacant downtown Albany motel
AFD battling a vacant motel fire (Source: WALB)
AFD battling a vacant motel fire (Source: WALB)
One of two aerial trucks called in to fight the fire (Source: WALB)
One of two aerial trucks called in to fight the fire (Source: WALB)
Investigators said there where many people living in the vacant hotel before the fire. (Source: WALB)
Investigators said there where many people living in the vacant hotel before the fire. (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Fire crews spent hours battling a fire at a vacant downtown Albany motel.

The blaze broke out before midnight Tuesday in the 400 block of West Oglethorpe Boulevard.

Arriving firefighters found heavy flames and thick smoke pouring from the building.

According to the Albany Fire Department Battalion Chief Wesley Wells, crews got the call just after midnight and extinguished the fire shortly after 3 a.m.

Two aerials trucks were called in to fight the fire using thousands of gallons of water to get the blaze under control.

Firefighters conducted a search of the building, but at the time no one was found.

While it's not clear what started the fire, the vacant motel is located just blocks away from the old Albany Theatre that went up in flames in January of 2018.

That fire, which claimed one life, was blamed on vagrants living in the building.

According to a sign outside the building, the property was once the Inn and Suites motel.

Later Tuesday morning, another search was expected to be conducted to see if anyone was in the building.

A man told WALB News 10's Ashley Bohle, that "many homeless people like to stay in that building."

Lula B. Davis Realtor Company Incorporated is located steps away from where the fire broke out Tuesday morning.

Luckily, the owner, Lula Davis, said there were no damages, but she said the problems she's had with the vagrants inside the motel have pushed her to the edge.

"40 years in business in this town it ought to mean something you know, you ought to be able to get some kind of consideration," said Davis.

This location of the Lula B. Davis Realtor Company has been open for 14 years.

"I have a lot invested here but I'm about at my breaking point. I'm at the point of possibly relocating because it's getting to be too much," she said.

Fire investigators said vagrants inside the building may have caused the fire.

"This is the third time this building has caught fire," said Davis.

Davis said she has reached out to the city of Albany each time, complaining about the people going in and out.

"I have reached out to the city, I reached out to code enforcement, trying to get something done about this building. I talked to the owners of it and I can't get anything done," explained Davis.

Davis has even offered to buy the building, but no one would cooperate.

WALB reached out to Code Enforcement about the number of abandoned buildings in Albany and what is being done to keep them secure. We also reached out to the city of Albany to find out when it was last inspected. We are still waiting to hear back.

"It just needs to be demolished and put something there that would benefit the community, provide some jobs, something that we can be proud of," Davis explained.

Kurtisa Thomas agrees. She is the program director at the Open Arms homeless shelter and said that the lack of jobs and shelters doesn't help.

"You only have Salvation Army and Albany Rescue Mission that does homeless, you have your Liberty House that only does domestic violence homeless. So, in our area no there are not enough. You still have your people sleeping on park benches, and like you say in the hotels or abandoned buildings," said Thomas.

As for Davis, the homeless population and their actions are hurting her business.

"Its very unsightly and I try my best to keep my building up, try to make it look nice because I want something for my customers to be proud of, but it's getting harder and harder," said Davis.

WALB reached out to the Dougherty County Tax Office and a representative gave the name of the owner of that building. We went to that person's address but didn't get an answer.

The fire investigator said the building was uninsured.

Fire investigators are working to determine what caused the fire.

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