3 down, several remain

Published 12:37 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Mabry Street residents woke to a strange sight Tuesday morning as an abandoned house at 1603, engulfed in flames, gave way to gravity and collapsed to the earth below.

As neighbors wandered up the street, the structure’s old, dried wood crackled as flames occasionally kissed the low-hanging branches from an adjacent tree. A couple of children worried that the blaze would spread, but planning and precautions kept the inferno confined to the lot.

“The burn went fairly well, fairly quick,” said Selma Fire Capt. Joe C. Phillips. “The most important thing is safety.”

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The house was the third of several abandoned houses and properties scheduled for demise by controlled burn.

According to Selma Police Chief William T. Riley, the destruction of these properties is a means of “shining a light on Selma’s ‘dark areas’” — areas that appear to be a safe haven for criminals, drugs and prostitution.

“The main thing is cleaning up our neighborhoods,” said Riley. “All this goes into making our neighborhoods safe. These vacant and abandoned homes and buildings, they’re breeding grounds for a lot of our crime.”

It is hoped that each controlled burn will lead to a positive turnaround for each lot.

“Out of this destruction of this home, something good will come out of it,” said Riley. “We’re hoping from this area, a nice, clean spot will grow.”

Properties located at 1801 L.L. Anderson Ave. and 1219 Marie Foster St. were the first two to be burned.

“Eradicating those houses killed two abandoned eyesores,” said Code Enforcement Officer Darryl Moore. “Neighbors, the adjacent property owners, they are happy. And even the people who ride that street can see a major difference in the community.”

Moore said the owners of the first two controlled burn properties said they would have the lots cleaned and maintain them.

Shining the light on Selma’s dark spots is a work in progress, but it is one on which progress is being made. Controlled burns are scheduled for properties at 1405 Martin Luther King St., 1315 Griffin Ave. and 1513 Lawrence St. Moore said the goal is to do a controlled burn on one or two houses a week.

“I think before August, there will be a tremendous difference in our city, as far as removing some of these dilapidated structures.”