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In-Depth: East Cleveland residents, city leaders share vacant house fire concerns

In-Depth: East CLE residents share vacant house fire concerns
Posted at 8:43 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-04 00:28:27-05

EAST CLEVELAND, Ohio — Some East Cleveland residents and city leaders shared their concerns after a massive March 1 fire at a Superior Avenue rowhouse ended with investigators finding the body of an unidentified man inside one of the units.

East Cleveland resident Barbara Thomas, 50, who lives just a quarter-mile from the burned-out home, told News 5 she reported the vacant structure multiple times but the city took no action.

“I told them they needed to tear that place down because somebody is going to be found in there dead, a child, an adult, and sure enough that’s what happened," Thomas said

“Somebody was found dead in there after a fire and that really upset me, and the other day I called the mayor’s office."

"It should have been either boarded-up or constantly surveyed by someone.”

Thomas, who is also a former East Cleveland Councilwoman, said overnight fires at vacant homes and buildings have been a constant problem in her neighborhood and has some residents living in fear and wanting to move out.

A rowhouse right next door to the burned-out multi-unit complex caught on fire on Jan. 23, 2019, and was finally torn-down.

“Every time this happens nothing is done until we have a tragedy," Thomas said.

“Nobody gets excited until we have a catastrophe or that somebody is dead.”

“Dealing drugs up there, going in and out of those buildings, my neighbors want to move, but who wants to buy their houses?”

“The neighbors are sick and tired of being sick and tired, and no, I don’t know how they’re going to fix it, but they need to fix it.”

Ward 2 Councilwoman Juanita Gowdy said she too reported the nuisance property to East Cleveland Mayor Brandon King but is still waiting for a response.

“I’ve been telling the Mayor about this for such a long time, and he ignored me, I’m very upset," Gowdy said.

“I want the administration to tear down this building, so nothing else like this will happen.”

“That’s the message that I’m giving out to the owners, that they need to be held accountable, all owners that have buildings looking like this.”

News 5's efforts to reach out to Mayor King and the homeowner have still not produced a response.

East Cleveland Police Chief Scott Gardner told News 5 the case has been turned over to the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and foul play has not yet been ruled out.