Belvedere fire: Neighbour wants city to keep better watch on vacant buildings

1 / 3

St. John's council approves demolition of Richmond Cottage, Belvedere Orphanage

St. John's council approves demolition of Richmond Cottage, Belvedere Orphanage

Following Friday's devastating fire that gutted one of the oldest buildings in St. John's, a woman who lives nearby is questioning what was done to protect the building from intruders. 

Catherine Pritchett lives on a street near the former Belvedere orphanage and she says her daughter frequently see teenagers from nearby Brother Rice Junior High School around the vacant building.

"If you know that junior high students are in an out, then that kind of indicates that almost anybody could be in there."

Could have been worse

Pritchett said the city is lucky there wasn't more collateral damage from the fire.

"My assumption is that if it had been a windy night, all of the properties on Margaret Place were at risk," she said.

"It's a fairly congested street. Fire is never far from your mind when you live downtown. It's just a fact."

While the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary is still investigating the cause of the fire, Pritchett wants to see the city do more to make sure vacant properties are protected.  

"There should be a system around managing this ... particularly when they're next to schools." she said.

Mayor says regulations are enforced

St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe maintained on Monday that the city does enforce regulations on vacant properties.

He said the city's residential property standards bylaw states what property owners must do to secure empty buildings.

"If we find, as we found in this particular building at different times, that there were deficiencies in the maintenance ... then the owner is responsible," he said.

"We contact the owner and ask that remedies be put in place, that the building be secured [and] that it be boarded up."

If the owner doesn't comply, said O'Keefe, the city will contract it out and bill them directly.

But while there are regulations to monitor vacant properties, O'Keefe said it's not feasible to watch a building for 24 hours a day.

"When we are notified of such activity, when we find out through our own frequent monitoring that the building is gotten into, then we will act right away."