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Answering the M Street Fire Questions

CEDAR RAPIDS, IA (CBS2/FOX28) Cedar Rapids is answering some community questions about a house fire late in the night on May 17th. The location was an abandoned flood home that caught fire before about two years ago.

Neighbors were that the home was allowed to stand, especially after a fire that destroyed much of the building in 2012. The city says it was working behind the scenes, with the owners, before the fire both destroyed the house and put the rest of the community in danger.

From Brandon Hansens front lawn, you can see what remains of the house at 1202 M Street Southwest. Brandon says even as a renter, it falls on him and his neighbors to keep their properties up. He says he didnt think that was happening at the abandoned property down the street before the fire on May 17th.

"A lot of people work really hard for a living just to have the little property that they do have, said Hansen.

"We as a city firmly believe that the responsibilities of maintain those properties rests solely on the owners, said Cedar Rapids Director of Building Services Kevin Ciabatti.

Ciabatti says since the house was privately owned, the city couldn't just step in. But he says the owners were making progress in taking care of the house that is now just a pile of charred wood."

"We had gone through initial steps with them to take responsibility, said Ciabatti. They secured the property, which is what we would require them to do."

The city says the owners were in the process of getting a demolition permit. Kevin says the had picked up an application and believes that they were getting signatures from the proper authorities before theyd be allowed to move forward.

"They were taking steps to solve the problem, said Ciabatti. Obviously it was a little slower than what we had hoped."

Hansen says thats a start, but that the red tape put his whole block at risk.

"Well, you know, really, it wasn't fast enough, said Hansen.

Moving forward, the city says it is looking into creating a vacant home registry that would keep track of the abandoned homes and help streamline the process to either refurbish them, or force their demolition much faster than they can now. They expect to have a first draft of a new city ordinance in the next few months.
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