By Justin Finch

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Five people were displaced overnight Thursday after a fire at a vacant rowhome in Kingsessing.

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Shirley Seay Belsor lived next door to the home that caught fire. She lost her home too.

“We did all the right things that they kept telling us. We’ve got to call L&I. We’ve got to call the police, and we’ve been doing this for many years. I’ve been here for six years.”

Neighbors told Eyewitness News that the house had been a haven for vagrants and illegal activity for years, and that they had called the Office of Licenses and Inspections.

“When it burned the first time, the fire didn’t catch,” Belsor explained. “I said, but the second time, my house was going to be burned.”

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Eyewitness News reached out to the agency and they confirmed their office had received three complaints about 5426 Florence Avenue this year. The most recent complaint came about a week before the house burned down. L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams said a team was on track to seal the front door of the property some time between Nov. 4 and Nov. 14.

The fire broke the same day Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter swore in 30 new L&I inspectors. Nutter and Commissioner Williams said the new inspectors are part of an agency-wide overhaul brought about after the June 2013 building collapse at 2138 Market St. that killed six and injured 14.

Even with new inspectors on the ground, Commissioner Carlton Williams said L&I still needs the support of observant residents to call in unsafe structures and illegal activity at work sites.

“Our job is to clean and seal and mitigate the situation, and try to keep it safe so that no one breaks in. But if people continuously break in, that’s a challenge. If anyone sees anything, report it to the police, and then us.”

 

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