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Harrisburg neighbors fight blight

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A fire at an abandoned house in Harrisburg Tuesday morning has some neighbors calling for more action.

The effort to tear down blighted homes might not come fast enough for some, but Harrisburg city officials said neighbors should still report the problem.

Some neighbors near 15th and Berryhill Streets said they would prefer to see fewer abandoned houses in the area and more vacant lots.

What was once an abandoned Harrisburg rowhome was reduced to a pile of bricks by the city codes department.

Sandra Fluellen’s mother lives in the neighborhood. Fluellen said “it’s a very big problem in the neighborhood.

“This building was actually falling down, it was endangering people that were walking past, the cars, everything,” Fluellen added.

When asked what she would like to happen next, Fluellen said “for these houses to be gone, and then to move on over here and do these and make a green space in the middle.”

Harrisburg Bureau of Fire Chief Brian Enterline said “we have squatters come in, we have drug addicts come in, we have homeless folks come in. They are a huge issue safety-wise for our firefighters and those that are staying and squatting in those buildings.”

It’s what Fluellen’s brother Stewart Jackson on a mission to ask the city to do something about the house next door to his mother’s, and tear it down.

Jackson said “when I went down to talk to the mayor, that I was scared because my mother’s upstairs and she’s sick, and I was thinking about it, maybe a fire in one of the homes.”

Enterline recognizes getting rid of the city’s abandoned houses isn’t always that simple.

“It’s an abandoned building but somebody still owned it, so for us to just go out and start doing things to a building, we can’t do it, it’s a violation of your rights as a property owner,” Enterline said.

“We work very closely with codes, codes does the best job they can within the legal court system to be able to address these issues and we’ve been doing that for the last couple years and it’s very frustrating,” Enterline added.

Jackson however, couldn’t be happier that his mission for demolition was accomplished in less than a month.

“They did call me and they said that they would probably would tear it down in a couple months, but I was lucky and the house is gone now,” Jackson said.

"It was very fast, and I thank the mayor for it," Jackson added.

Chief Brian Enterline/Harrisburg Bureau of Fire: continue to notify us, we come out and we mark them, again the problem is no matter how well we board them up drug addicts and the homeless are going to find a way to get in,” Enterline said.

Complaint forms to report an abandoned property in Harrisburg may be found on the city’s website, while complaints about illegal activity should be reported to the police.