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Vacant Buildings Pose Fire Danger

By ABC-7 Reporter Celina Avila

El Paso, Texas – A warehouse fire Monday morning is believed to be arson, according to Fire Dept. officials.

The warehouse on the 1900 block of Magoffin is a total loss, with damage estimated at $100,000. No one was hurt.

The warehouse is abandoned, but fire department officials say empty buildings usually make things worse and are a constant threat to our community.

That’s why next week, a new inspection task force will begin making the rounds.

Fire officials sayMonday morning’s fire is a perfect example of the hazards inside vacant or abandoned buildings.

Though no one was hurt, firefighters say walking into the unknown could be the difference between life and death.

It took 45 firefighters more than an hour to put outthe huge blaze at the Central El Paso warehouse Monday morning.

The warehouse, which is vacant, has a history.

“We have had previous fires in this building before. It was determined that those were arson fires. So there was already previous fire damage to these buildings,” said EPFD Batallion Chief, Rafael Reyes.

Fire officials say abandoned or vacant properties pose serious threats to everyone in the community.

“We don’t know what the hazards in these buildings are, ” Fire Chief, Otto Drozd said that could be the biggest hazard of all. “There could be combustibles stored within these buildings that we’re not aware of.”

That’s why starting next week, vacant and abandoned buildings will be the target of a new inspection task force.

“We’re starting to contact the owners to make these appointments so we can get into those parts of the buildings and make sure that they’re meeting the provisions of the current code,” said Fire Chief Drozd.

Fire officials say launching this new program will help not only keep property owners from losing tens of thousands of dollars in a potential fire but also make better use of city resources.

“I’d rather send out this team of inspectors and get it on the front end than having to respond with the overwhelming amount of resources needed to combat a fire in one of these buildings,” said Drozd.

The city’s inspection task force is starting Tuesday, January 19th.

If property owners do not comply with fire codes they will be given citations and could even be taken to court.

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