Fire-destroyed buildings still an issue year after fire

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HAZLETON, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) –People living in a Hazleton neighborhood say they fear for their safety and health all because of three burned-out buildings. Those buildings burned more than a year ago and nothing has been done to clean up the debris.

Mayor Jeff Cusat says the city is trying its best to get something done with these burned-out buildings, and he insists the job will get done. He describes it as an insurance bureaucratic nightmare.

“Everybody on this block would like to see it be gone. Both of them,” neighbor Ann Marie said.

Ann Marie lives across the street from these two burned-out buildings in the 300 block of Carleton Avenue in the Heights section of Hazleton.

“It’s a mess. Anybody could walk through there. Probably animals inside,” Ann Marie said.

It’s looked like this since July 4, 2018 when a massive fire ripped through the buildings. 24 people were left homeless. The cause was never determined. Rich and Debra live behind the property.

“It’s terrible first of all and second of all, I’m afraid there’s going to be another fire back there with wrong people going in and out of there. Right now a bunch of stray cats are going in and out of there,” Rich Lynch said.

“It makes me sick, it really does. I’m afraid maybe kids will go in there,” Debbie Fisher said.

“The city doesn’t have the right to just go on somebody’s property and start moving stuff,” Mayor Jeff Cusat said. “I know a lot of people think that the city doesn’t pay attention to their complaints but we are limited to what we can and cannot do.”

Cusat says all three property owners are cooperating with the city, but it’s turned into an issue with insurance.

“Well, it’s three separate residences we are dealing with, three separate properties. Two of them were insured by different companies and the third, which is the half double, it has no insurance. So we are planning on using community development money to bring that half down,” Cusat said.

Mayor Cusat says that the city has to follow very strict regulations when it comes to using community development money. He is confident the buildings will be history in several months.

The cause of the fire has never been determined but investigators suspect that fireworks played a role.

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