Special to HuntingtonNews.Net
COLUMN: Standing Vacant Buildings Could Lead to an Emmons Type Tragedy

by David Williams

The vacant building on 5th Avenue and 13th Street In Huntington, WV that has already been the scene of a drug overdose death and a fire, is a fire hazard that requires action to prevent future tragedies.

The building which once housed a chiropractor's office and apartment buildings has been in bad condition and the fire which occurred in September has only weakened the structure. The vacant building has been frequented by homeless people looking for shelter and drug addicts looking for a place to do drugs. Sources have told me that there were multiple drug syringes found inside the building and evidence that meth has been manufactured inside the house.

Tyler Simmons was found dead from a drug overdose in August and the house burst into flames in September. The fire started on a Sunday afternoon and if not for runners in a race being ran on 5th Avenue, lives could have been lost then. According to The Herald-Dispatch article "Fire Damages Abandoned House" on 9/28/15:
"Huntington Fire Department Deputy Chief Jan Rader said the runners saw the smoke, alerted police who were managing traffic for the race and knocked on the doors of the neighboring houses to get residents out.

"We probably would have lost all three houses if not for PATH runners," Rader said."

The damaged houses practically sits on top of two apartment buildings. The buildings sit very close together and only quick action by the fire department prevented the blaze from spreading. But what happens if the building explodes again and this time it happens at night when there is not a race being ran out front on 5th Avenue?

What might possibly happen is that the blaze would rapidly spread and lives would be lost in the apartment building. A tragic apartment fire could be even more deadlier than the Emmons apartment fire on January 7, 2007 that killed nine people.

The City of Huntington is well aware that drug addicts are using this building and as cold weather moves in it is likely more will use this house and may even start fires to stay warm. The building has been used for preparation of meth, which may have been the cause of the first fire, and some chemicals may still remain inside the house. The City of Huntington will have blood on its' hands if they do not either clean up, rehabilitate, or demolish the house and hold the owner's responsible.

It is ironic that Huntington has an code enforcement officer that tickets people for high weeds or grass but yet they let this death trap hover right in the middle of town in between City Hall and Marshall University.

If Huntington does not wish to be responsible for preventing another tragedy similar to Emmons apartment fire, then they need to hold the owner responsible for the cleanup. This is our city, residents of Huntington, we need action to prevent losing anymore residents to a senseless tragedy.