After two fires in two months, AEP to demolish problem buildings

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 12:29 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - In Roanoke, residents and business owners are crying foul after a fire tore through an abandoned building Tuesday night. It’s the second fire at the property in six weeks, and people in the area say it presents a serious danger.

Roanoke city is investigating the cause of the latest fire, which happened in an abandoned two-story building in the 600 block of 22nd Street SW. The previous fire, in another building on the same AEP-owned property, was ruled to have an “undetermined” cause, according to Roanoke Fire/EMS.

“I want it cleaned up,” said Southwest resident Helen Crosen.

Crosen’s mom lives just around the corner from the buildings. Over the years, she says she’s seen them deteriorate. She’s also seen dozens of homeless people use the buildings as an informal shelter.

All of it adds up to an environment Crosin says is unsafe for her kids.

“They don’t want to go outside and play,” she said. “My kids love playing outside, but they don’t want to be outside because of that.”

Business owners along nearby Winston Avenue also report they frequently have to deal with break-ins and damaged property, and have reached out to the city and AEP, asking them to take action.

WDBJ7 reached out to AEP Wednesday. A spokesperson told us in an email AEP is “in contact with the city on structural and security issues.” The spokesperson said AEP already tried securing the buildings after the May fire by boarding up doors and windows.

They’re now making “arrangements to safely demolish and remove the structures,” and hope to have them gone “by the end of the year.”

Back around the corner, Helen Crosen says that is the only acceptable solution.

“They need to knock the buildings down,” she said. “Point blank. Now that we’ve had two fires, they need to tear the buildings down.”

Copyright 2020 WDBJ. All rights reserved.

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