'It's hard to sleep at night': Neighbours call for action on vacant homes after fire on Maryland
WINNIPEG -- WINNIPEG – People who live near a vacant home that erupted in flames -- for the second time this year -- on Maryland Street Wednesday are calling for action, saying something needs to be done about abandoned homes in the area.
The busy one-way street was closed while firefighters battled the fire after being called out at around 4 a.m., causing major disruptions during the morning rush.
The fire was well-involved when firefighters arrived and nearby homes had to be evacuated as a precaution, taking shelter in a transit bus.
No one was hurt.
It was declared under control around 6:30 a.m., but crews had to remain at the scene to put out hot spots. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
Once it reopens, drivers are advised to take caution on Maryland, due to the icy streets left behind by the firefight.
The same home was the scene of another fire in the summer.
NEIGHBOURS SAY VACANT HOMES A SAFETY RISK
Veronica Hamilton has lived near the house for two years. She said her son woke her up early this morning to alert her of the fire.
“I saw the flames, I saw the fire guys,” she told CTV News, adding that she believes the home has been abandoned for as long as she’s lived nearby.
“They should have torn it down the first time,” she said, referring to the fire last summer.
“I’m so concerned about all the houses that are vacant on our street. They get broken into and squatters go in. It’s dangerous.”
Hamilton believes the vacant homes should be torn down and turned into community gardens if possible. She believes with so many homeless Winnipeggers, it’s the only way to ensure abandoned properties don’t turn into safety risks.
“It’s never going to stop. Slum lords, abandoning their houses, not fixing them up. It’s not going to end.”
“I’m just concerned about the neighbourhood,” she said, estimating she gets woken up by a fire at least once a month.
“It’s getting too close, and it’s hard to sleep at night.”
Another neighbour, Preston Bird, said he’s also seen a lot of action at the home prior to Wednesday’s fire.
“It’s been an ongoing thing with it really,” said Bird.
“People keep breaking into it, and living in it, and using it for who knows what, right,” said Bird.
“I don’t know why the city doesn’t do something about it, and just get rid of these houses.”
He believes tearing down vacant homes would save the city money, in the long run.
“How much is the city paying, right now, to put the fire out, over and over and over, send the police, over and over and over, tear it down, again.”
CTV News has reached out to the City of Winnipeg about the concerns but has not yet received a response.
-With files from Tim Salzen and Scott Andersson