House fire pleases neighbors

By Anthony Skeens, The Triplicate October 07, 2013 05:30 pm

Firefighters battle the blaze Wednesday on Macken Avenue.
Firefighters battle the blaze Wednesday on Macken Avenue. Photo courtesy of Debra Wakefield
Drug activity had neighborhood in unsettled state

A Crescent City house fire has left authorities with several questions, while neighbors found it to be an answer to several of their problems.

A fire sparked in a home at 777 Macken Ave. around 8 p.m. Wednesday night.

A neighbor heard some explosions and came outside to see a pickup speeding away.

“As soon as the fire started pouring out the windows, that truck beat feet out of here,” said the neighbor, one of three who spoke on the condition that their names not be printed.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Crescent City Fire Chief Steve Wakefield said.

“It took about a half hour to get it under control,” said Wakefield.

The fire gutted the inside of the home. 

Firefighters had some concerns about heading into the house initially due to reports that it may have had a methamphetamine lab inside of it, Wakefield said.

Sheriff’s Commander Tim Athey said deputies found methamphetamine in the house, but not a lab. He also said that, due to the materials in the house, it was hard to find where the fire started.

“That evening neighbors heard yelling outside of the house; they didn’t see anybody — who knows if it was yelling from a fight or people inside,” said Athey, adding that in the same time frame explosions were reported but that could have been the windows popping from the heat.

No injuries were reported.

Authorities are still searching for the truck that left the scene as well, as its occupants. 

All three neighbors said the home has been the site of what appeared to be drug activity at all hours of the day and night for about the past year.

One neighbor stated that there were several young people living there. 

The activity blossomed around the same time its owners moved out after failing to keep up with mortgage payments, the neighbors said.

“It’s a good neighborhood otherwise,” said one. “There used to be a decent couple right here, but then when they moved out and the druggies moved in, it really tore down the neighborhood.”

A child from the couple who abandoned the home, stuck around to reside there, said Athey, adding that he was not at the home at the time of the fire.

“Everyone else associated with the house, we haven’t been able to find,” said Athey. “So who knows where they are or even who they are?”

The house didn’t have water or electricity; a generator could be heard running sometimes. Occupants of the house pestered the neighbors for water.

“I figured with all the drugs they were selling, they could at least have the water and power turned on,” said one neighbor. 

Visitors were often knocking on windows to get someone’s attention, fights would occur and cars would honk at irregular hours of the night and speed off, neighbors said.

Some of the children in the neighborhood were afraid to play outside, the neighbors said.

There were 10 contacts with law enforcement at the home since last October that usually amounted to minor activities, such as loud music or stopping a car, Athey said.

A couple of the neighbors blamed the home for decreasing their own property value.

“There was activity going in and out of this house 24 hours a day,” said a neighbor. “I actually almost celebreated when the house went up in flames.” 

A mountain of garbage climbing up half the house on one side became an eyesore. An immobile RV was parked on the other side of the house. A broken down truck had been parked in the driveway. 

The neighbors had complained to the county code enforcement officer, who had been working to condemn the house, neighbors said.

It is scheduled for an abatement hearing Oct. 18.

 “It really doesn’t look much worse then before the fire,” said a neighbor.

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