‘Accident waiting to happen’: Homeowner who lost his house in flames says he complained about neighboring abandoned property years ago
A man whose property was destroyed when a nearby abandoned house caught fire says it was a “imminent accident” and council should have acted sooner.
Bill Guthrie of Guthrie Property Investments Ltd described the property that caught fire as high risk. He said he first brought his concerns to Wellington City Council ten years ago.
At around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, the house caught fire in a fire that police now consider suspect.
One person was taken to hospital with moderate injuries.
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Brendon Wood, of Fire and Emergency, said a house was on fire and was spreading to a nearby house when crews arrived.
Eyewitnesses reported that the abandoned property initially caught fire, but police and firefighters and emergencies did not confirm where the blaze started.
Guthrie said he had owned his now destroyed Hanson St property since the early 1980s.
About 10 years ago, he said, he approached the council to worry about the neighboring property, which he believed was abandoned and inhabited by squatters.
Since then, he had approached the council “on several occasions”.
“I didn’t live there but we had complaints from tenants there about vermin on the neighboring property and I was concerned about the risk of fire.
“Nothing was done… There must be some rules that they have to follow, but again, it’s one of those things, it’s abandoned property, and it’s been a risk. It’s a shame, ”he said.
Four tenants lived on the Guthrie property, which was managed by property manager Matt Donnelly.
Donnelly said last month he again approached council with concerns about the abandoned house.
“It wouldn’t have been just me or Bill contacting them, it probably would have been other people as well. Most people in the neighborhood know this house is derelict and there are squatters. there for years.
“It’s too bad our tenants have had to suffer,” said Donnelly.
Donnelly and Guthrie said they were told that because the woman who owned the property was paying its rates, there was nothing the council could do.
“It’s pretty frustrating all around,” Guthrie said.
“The way I see it, the board should still have the responsibility to make sure the community is safe and protected and that was a very high risk… You think it could have done more, but maybe not . ”
Wellington City Council has been approached for comment and Thing could not reach the last known owner for comment.
About eight or nine years ago, Guthrie said, he had his builder build the house so people couldn’t get in and had previously left notes in the mailbox asking the owner if he could buy it.
Guthrie said a woman used to live there with her mother, but when her mother died she had moved. He wasn’t sure who owned the property now.
Even as early as 2000, the property had been dilapidated, he said.
Homes.co.nz estimates the three-bedroom property to be worth an estimated $ 1.04 million.
Guthrie said he had lived on his property as a student and that he and his wife had done a lot of work on the house.
“It’s very sad … we have a lot of memories at home. At the end of the day, no one was killed, so I guess you have to be pretty philosophical about it, ”he said.
Donnelly and Guthrie are now busy relocating their tenants.
“It’s pretty horrible for these tenants,” Donnelly said.
A fire and emergency spokesperson said 13 fire trucks were involved in putting out the blaze, with units being called in from Porirua and Hutt Valley.