Dayton OKs contract to remove dozens of burned-out properties

Fire-damaged buildings and ‘fire piles’ from emergency demolition are eyesores, but sometimes sit for months or years

Dayton has hired a contractor to knock down and remove dozens of fire-damaged properties, and city staff are vetting proposals to eliminate a couple dozen more.

Fire-damaged properties and “fire piles” drag down property values and attract nuisance activities like illegal dumping and pests. Residents usually are very unhappy to live next to or near these unsightly messes.

“We’re very excited to get these structures cleared by the end of this year, early part of next, and improve the safety and livability in our affected neighborhoods,” said LaShea Lofton, deputy city manager.

Dayton City Commission recently approved a $1.2 million contract with CJ’s Trucks & Demolition LLC to demolish and clean up 58 fire-damaged structures and fire piles, which are the mounds of rubble that remain following emergency demolition.

Dayton has about 86 major fire-damaged structures and fire piles across the city that it is working to get rid of, city officials said. The city already removed 18 of these properties this year.

Dayton this year had about 111 fire-damaged properties and fire piles, which includes properties that were damaged or destroyed in past years but that have not yet been cleaned up, said Todd Kinskey, Dayton’s director of planning, neighborhoods and development.

CJ’s Trucks will remove burned and decaying nuisance properties that are located in about 13 Dayton neighborhoods, including Edgemont, Five Oaks, MacFarlane, Miami Chapel, Santa Clara, Southern Dayton View, Twin Towers and Wolf Creek.

One of the properties is 848 Conners St., which was a home in the Edgemont neighborhood that belongs to Victor Santana.

The home was vandalized and then burned down in 2019 after Santana shot and killed two teenagers who were trespassing in his detached garage. Santana later was convicted of murder and was sent to prison.

The home has been reduced to rubble and debris, and the site is overgrown with vegetation.

Other fire-damaged homes that the city is going to tear down and turn into empty lots are falling apart and have piles of trash on their porches and in their yards.

The city also is reviewing proposals to remove and clean up 26 fire piles. Officials say they expect to move forward with a contract next month.

Demolishing and cleaning up fire-damaged properties can be very expensive, costing as much as $25,000 or more per home, which is nearly twice as much as normal demolition activities.

But Dayton is paying for this work using the $138 million the city received in federal COVID relief funding. These cleanup activities are part of the Dayton Recovery Plan.

Two notable properties have yet to be cleaned up after fires destroyed them earlier this year — the home at 508 N. Broadway St. where five people were found dead in early March, and the Traxler Mansion at 42 Yale Ave., which burned in April, then again in August.

The owner of the Broadway Street property committed to handling the demolition and cleanup but has yet to do that, Kinskey said.

The city commission gave its approval and funding to demolish and clean up the property, which will happen if the owner does not handle it, he said.

The city was not considering emergency demolition and cleanup of the Traxler property until a second fire occurred there, Kinskey said. That’s because he said there were active talks about rebuilding the property.

Kinskey said the city will assign the property to a future contract for cleanup if owners do not help with the final demolition.

“Our current contracts are addressing fire piles and burn structures that have been in this condition for several years,” he said.

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