“I’ve never had such a rude and scary awakening,” says Joshua Perron of 126 Mechanic St., Fitchburg. On the early morning of Nov. 30, 2012, residents of Mechanic Street were startled by chaos.
At approximately 5:10 a.m., neighbors awoke to the sounds of shattering glass and terrified screams, as flames began to erupt from the second-floor window of 133 Mechanic St., leaving eight residents without a home. One family was left without a vehicle, as an attic overhang engulfed in flames fell onto their Jeep Cherokee. The exact cause of the fire remains unknown; however fire officials have speculated that the blaze possibly began on the third floor of the three-story apartment.
Residents in the surrounding neighborhood had reported suspicious activity at approximately 2:45 a.m. around the We Got it Market, a convenience store located two buildings down from the fire. They claim they heard a male yelling and talking loudly on a cell phone, and attempting to break in; they reported these events to the Fitchburg Police. Despite these accounts, authorities have not acknowledged whether these two events are related.
Though the building has been deemed a total loss and the property owner has been ordered to demolish the building, local residents are still upset by the events of that early November morning, and are questioning why the building is still standing to this day. “How long can it possibly take for an insurance company to deem a property a total loss?” asks Perron.
“Fitchburg city officials have been to the site on numerous occasions, surveying the damage and trying to ensure that no one is trespassing on the property,” reported a resident of the Mechanic Street neighborhood.
Despite these efforts, there are dilapidated fences surrounding the property, suggesting that there have been efforts by passersby to enter and possibly explore the structurally unsafe, charred remains of the home. Many citizens are beginning to wonder exactly how long it is going to take to demolish this property and remove this eyesore from the community.
“The real question,” says Perron, “is how long does this process really have to take? My family went through Christmas with my children having to look straight into the living room of the house that two of their schoolmates lived, in plain sight of their burned-up Christmas tree that never had any presents under it. These people lost almost everything they owned, right before Christmas. We had to look at it straight through the holidays, it was so depressing.”
In addition to being an eyesore to locals, Perron adds, “This building is on an interstate highway route that is heavily trafficked. How does this building make the city of Fitchburg look to people coming in from out of state?”
A recent article in the the Fitchburg Sentinel and Enterprise reports that the city has ordered the landlord of 133 Mechanic St. to demolish the property to ensure public safety, however has received no compliance. The city recently had a similar experience with a burned property on Daniels Street and experienced similar funding issues in the demolition of that property. Fitchburg officials have stated publicly that they are willing to work with the homeowners, rather than against them, in order to ensure the safety of the community.
Recently, the City of Fitchburg’s Finance Committee held a vote to grant the city a $100,000 expenditure to enable the community to take down these potentially dangerous properties when the owners fail to do so. Representatives of the city have expressed some apprehension on this matter, fearing this may give homeowners and insurance companies the false impression that the city will bear the financial burden.
“I understand that the city is moving this process along as fast as they can,” says Perron, “but I have children – they know not to enter a property like that, but who’s to say no one else’s kids won’t? Not to mention, this is not exactly the best part of town—who knows who might seek out shelter there? The longer it stands, the more dangerous it gets.”