House burnt as part of program

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 3, 2003

Most of the time the fire department is putting out fires instead of starting them, commented Andalusia Fire Lieutenant Jeff Holland after The Andalusia Fire Department conducted a fire Wednesday morning in order to carry out the city's demand for the abatement of property on Pugh Street.

Holland and about eight other members of the force contained a fire as it burned down the neglected building.

The fire was started at approximately 7:30 a.m. and lasted until 9 a.m., according to Holland.

The fire never got out of hand, because the department worked at containing the fire for the duration of the burning, Holland added.

"Taxes hadn't been paid on the property, and the property was neglected," said city attorney Thomas Albritton.

"The city gave the owner notice, and no objections were made for the property to be burned.

The ultimate decision to have the property burned is the city's."

The property belonged to an Enterpise resident, Steve Gatto, city inspector Ronnie Pate said.

Pate said he recieved the abatement notice from the city, and he declared the property a nuisance.

Pate said Gatto quit paying taxes on the property and agreed to have it incenerated.

"He originally bought the property from the state.

He had fourteen days to respond to the city's notice, in which he agreed to have the city burn the property.

If we got no response, then we would have proceeded with demolition as well," said Pate.

Pate said if Gatto did not respond to the city's notice, he would have had 30 days to respond to his notice of nuisance abatement.

It has been several years since a property owner has challenged the city's abatement ruling of a property, according to Pate.

An abatement occurs when an owner neglects the upkeep and payment of taxes on a property.

There have been approximately ten other controlled burnings of property this year as a result to the city's abatement rulings, said Holland.

"The fire this morning has taken about two years in the process," Holland said.

"The city says, 'We need you to burn down this property, and I say okay.'

We don't burn any property without prior approval."