3 KCK firefighters hurt battling fire on city's demolition list

Posted at 3:23 PM, Jan 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-29 19:31:07-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three KCK firefighters were hurt during a fire at a house on the city's demolition list.

The demolition program said it has about 200 buildings on its list.

"Mostly every other neighborhood you go to, every other street, it's a pretty abandoned house," said construction worker Jessy Acosta.

Acosta has helped build and rebuild homes for about four years and said problems can happen when properties sit vacant or abandoned too long.

"Walls falling in, cracked foundation. That's when you need to start over," said Acosta.

The home where Sunday morning's fire happened on North 7th Street was dealing with similar issues. It showed cracked cement and it had boarded up windows.

It was placed on the city's demolition list because it did not meet building code and had structural problems. The owner also had an issue paying taxes since 2006.

Officials in the Demolition Department said abandoned homes can be dangerous if they are open. Children or the homeless can get inside and the conditions of the structure may be unknown.

Fire marshal John Droppelmann said there was an earlier fire at the home in 2005. He said the home did not have electricity and squatters have used it in the past.

Marcellus Massey said he has seen people down on their luck heading into boarded-up buildings on the city's demo list — just like the one on North 7th Street.
"It's freezing outside and they don't have anywhere to go," said Marcellus Massey.
Fire investigators are working to find the cause, but they can not get inside safely since the floor broke under the weight of three firefighters.
"They risk their lives for the people next door, for the neighborhood and if the fire spreads it can be dangerous," said Massey. 
Massey also believes that houses that pose a potential risk still help the homeless who do not have anywhere to go. He just urges people using them as shelter to not light fires.
"Once they do catch fire and that fire spreads, other people's houses are in danger. Firefighter's lives are in danger," said Massey.  "But they need somewhere."
A supervisor who oversees the Demolition Department said each year it can take care of about 20 of the 200 buildings on the list.
If the home meets certain criteria it can be submitted to the land bank for a tax sale that happens three times a year. These sell to licensed contractors who must fix up the property.

Acosta said it is a case by case basis on which would make more sense for the city and that safety should be the top priority.

"A lot of them you can fix up. A lot of them you would want to knock down and start over," said Acosta.

In 2017 the city had nearly $1 million to knock down any dangerous buildings.

In 2018 that number nearly doubles to $1.8 million.  It will use the extra money to contract with more crews.

The additional money is coming from the Star Bonds used at the Legends, which was paid off last year.