PORT ANGELES — The fire was the last straw.
On Tuesday, the Port Angeles City Council will consider condemning an abandoned building that has been the subject of abatement actions for over a decade after a fire was started there by people trying to stay warm.
Saturday’s fire, which was extinguished without harm to people or damage to property, and continued neglect of the property at 204 E. Front St., prompted City Manager Nathan West to issue a declaration of emergency and order of abatement for the property on Wednesday. The council will consider ratifying the documents and discuss condemnation.
“We are going to ask the council to declare the building as blight,” West said.
“That enables us to proceed to the courts with additional action relative to that building that could result in something as substantial as building teardown,” he added.
The council’s regular meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Tuesday, as a hybrid meeting conducted in council chambers at city hall, 321 E. Fifth St., as well as online at www.cityofpa.us/Live-Virtual-Meetings.
People taking shelter inside the vacant, two-story commercial building called for help from the Port Angeles Fire Department at 9:52 p.m. Saturday after a blaze lit by one person to warm the group grew out of control, firefighters said.
West said the city has taken enforcement actions since 2011 concerning the building.
“It’s been a point of frustration,” West said Friday. “We will enforce and it will come into compliance and then fall out of it and we have to do it all over again.”
The abatement order says that the property has been the subject of numerous nuisance complaints “based on the owner’s failure to prevent unauthorized persons from entering the building for the purposes of drug use and temporary habitation.
“The owner permits accumulations of garbage, litter, and debris … which is a fire hazard … The City has provided the owner of this property with numerous opportunities to remedy the illegal, unsafe, and unsanitary conditions of this property,” the order continues.
The owner of the property is David Gladwin, who was first issued a notice of compliance in January 2011, with subsequent orders issued every year for the last 10 years, the most recent last September.
Gladwin could not be reached for comment this week.
At one point, Gladwin reportedly intended to build an apartment at the top of the building and create a retail space at the bottom. That did not happen.
Firefighters reported that the building is in complete disrepair, to the point that it poses a threat of structural failure.
“The floor was littered with numerous miscellaneous possessions, copious amounts of garbage, human feces, drug paraphernalia, ” according to a report from the fire department included in the abatement order.
”The building is made of brick, and the masonry structure of the building is clearly crumbling in several locations,” firefighter said.
”The entire south wall of the second floor appears to be propped up with wooden angle braces, several masonry interior walls are breached, and all the interior fire-resistive construction has been removed resulting in all wooden structural elements being exposed.”
Said West: “We heard very loudly from our fire chief that something needs to be done immediately relative to the building because there are multiple people living in that building without authorization.
“We have repeatedly posted that building with no occupancy. No one should be occupying that building, period. There are a lot of hazardous situations with that building… it’s essentially been stripped down to its wooden structure.”
Firefighters worked with the city to close off the building and restrict access to it following the fire.
West said that ReDiscovery social workers are seeking to help those who had sought shelter in the building find other options.
The declaration of emergency allows the city to move forward with hiring a contractor to secure the building so that it cannot be accessed by anyone,he said.
“We’ve secured it multiple times,” West said.
“Either the city fire department or other entities have actually secured the building trying to keep people from getting in and those security mechanisms have been torn off, so this time we are going to hire a contractor to get a stronger approach to ensure that no one is able to access that building,” he said.
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.