Initiative looks to demolish vacant Philadelphia warehouses

HUNTING PARK (WPVI) -- Philadelphia is a historic city, but with that history also comes aging infrastructure.

Once useful warehouses are now safety hazards and the city is moving quickly to try to take them down.

"We are proud of our history and our heritage, but like many old cities in our part of the country, we also have many old buildings that in many instances no longer serve our needs and some have fallen into disrepair, sometimes dangerously so," Mayor Michael Nutter said in a late Wednesday morning news conference in Hunting Park.

City officials are removing vacant warehouses that they say are posing as a safety issue not just for the communities they're in, but also for the first responders who are trying to protect them.

"In April of 2012, the city of Philadelphia experienced a horrific tragedy where two of our firefighters lost their lives by fighting a fire not far from this building located at 2nd and York streets," L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said.

"The great thing about this pilot is that we were able to get out and do a great job of citing the buildings that needed violations and it just moves us forward to having a safe city," Philadelphia Fire Department Commissioner Derrick Sawyer said.

Licenses and Inspections announced a partnership with the fire department to do joint inspections of any vacant building that is more than 15,000 square feet. That partnership comes with $5.5 million in new funding and 43 new workers to get the job done.

The idea is to expedite the process for trouble spots before tragedy strikes again.

"What happens to these buildings is the floors become unbearable to load so when there's a fire and the firemen try to approach the fire from the roof or any floor level, between the fire and the deterioration of the floor they collapse and that's how you lose first responders," Charles Dimaria of Gama Wrecking Inc. said.

Hours before the announcement, a vacant house partially collapsed in South Philadelphia.

The entire front of the house came tumbling down around 2:45 a.m. on the 1400 block of South Bouvier Street.

L&I had already posted signs from a previous collapse at the property.

A fence had also been placed around the house.

There were no reports of any injuries.
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