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Derelict buildings an issue?

A Port Coquitlam resident is calling on the city to do more about abandoned, derelict buildings after three suspicious fires occurred on the weekend.

A Port Coquitlam resident is calling on the city to do more about abandoned, derelict buildings after three suspicious fires occurred on the weekend.

Carole Grahame told The Tri-City News that poorly secured houses invite trouble and are often occupied by homeless people. She would like to see the city knock down buildings that are not properly secured by owners.

"Tear down the buildings until the developer rebuilds," said Grahame, who sent a letter to the city outlining her concerns. "I don't want to see firefighters or police or bylaw officers get hurt because they have to go on the property."

Fire investigators believe an arsonist could be to blame for three fires that took place at abandoned buildings over the weekend. Two trailers burned down on the Pickton property on Dominion Avenue at about 9:30 p.m. Friday, followed by a blaze at a home on Oxford Street and another fire in a garage on Kelly Avenue shortly after 1 a.m. Saturday.

Dirk Rasmussen, who lives near the fire the Kelly Avenue property, said while the garage was abandoned and boarded up, many homeless people occupied the building.

"There was always people sleeping in there," he said. "It was a bit of a nuisance."

Dan Scoones, PoCo's manager of bylaw services, said a city bylaw can force owners of abandoned buildings to board up windows and doors. The city makes sure property owners comply with the rules and will send staff people to ensure a structure is secure, he said.

"When the city finds a building like that, we report that to the fire department," Scoones said. "I am pretty sure that without exception, they are boarded up."

Scoones said he believes the buildings involved in the weekend fires were secure, and that if arson is the case in the blazes, the ignition point likely came from outside.

He also noted one of the homes was not completely abandoned. The house on Oxford Street had been visited by the city on multiple occasions and the owner was billed almost annually for unsightly premises violations.

The resident of the home, Scoones said, had accumulated so much stuff inside and around the building that he had to sleep in a tent in the backyard. Fire crews told The Tri-City News there was so much material in the home that it kept the structure from collapsing in on itself.

City staff and firefighters try to keep tabs on abandoned structures and encourage property owners to make sure their buildings are secure, according to Mayor Greg Moore.

"In the last five years... we brought in new policies and that is why [abandoned buildings] are boarded up immediately," he said. "If they are not boarded up immediately we will board them up at the property owner's expense."

Because of the costs associated with securing abandoned buildings, many property owners find it cheaper to knock down derelict homes. Moore said it is too soon to say whether bylaw changes are needed but added that the city will continue to monitor the situation.