The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, January 20, 2021 1:00 am

City begins trash cleanup of fire-hit Paulding home

JAMIE DUFFY | The Journal Gazette

A year ago, the city's Neighborhood Code and Compliance Department responded to neighborhood complaints about the trash at 2519 Paulding Road, the scene of a fire Thursday.

The homeowner attempted a cleanup in February, but further accumulation occurred, according to a timeline provided by Angelica Pickens, public information officer for the city's community development department. The homeowner is now deceased and his son is now the occupant.

On Thursday, the home was trashed inside and out and took Fort Wayne Fire Department crews an extended amount of time to find a spot to enter the one-story home, according to a report written by Battalion Chief Lance Dafforn.

The fire was reported at 2:51 a.m. and that same morning, the court granted the city's request to clean it up, the timeline indicated. A preliminary and permanent injunction will allow the city to clean up anytime trash and debris accumulates.

Contractors were to have started cleanup Tuesday, Pickens said.

The home is condemned and no one is allowed to enter without an entry affidavit, the city news release stated.

“The day (the fire) happened the courts granted Neighborhood Code access to the inside of home to clean it up and to keep cleaning it up if the person goes back and puts junk out there again,” Pickens said Tuesday.

The owner or renter will be able to get an entry affidavit to go into the property from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If someone goes on the property without the entry affidavit, Fort Wayne police will likely be called. The cost of the cleanup will be a special assessment on the property taxes, the release said.

After the property owner attempted a clean up in February, the city issued an order to abate or clean up three times in April, June and July. A city contractor cleaned the property in May, July and September.

In September, the property was only partially cleaned because the occupant intervened and Neighborhood Code couldn't access the backyard, requiring a court order, the release stated.

On Oct. 21, the city filed for a preliminary and permanent injunction, but with a deceased owner, it took time to serve all parties. A hearing was scheduled for Jan. 11 where the court granted the city's request.

Deputy Fire Chief Adam O'Connor said his department typically responds to hoarder homes several times a year. Fires at such homes or apartments are more difficult to fight.

“Getting to the fire quickly gives us a better chance of saving the occupants and keeps the firefighters safer before it reaches the next stage which is flashover fire when the entire room spontaneously combusts,” O'Connor said.

Although the fire department is not responsible for inspecting homes, firefighters also see hoarder homes on a daily basis during medical runs, O'Connor added.

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