'We're doing everything we can:' Councillor says city working to calm fears after Bridgeland arson

'We're doing everything we can:' Councillor says city working to calm fears after Bridgeland arson

A vacant rental house in Bridgeland that has been declared unfit for human habitation is at the centre of community concerns about arson, vandalism, and drug activity in the neighbourhood.

The home, on McDougall Road in northeast Calgary, was set on fire late last month. A day later, the garage was set ablaze as well. 

"People were extremely freaked out," area Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra told the Calgary Eyeopener on Monday. 

Carra said the city and police are doing what they can to curb the vandalism and threat of more fires in the community. Graffiti in the area, signed by Dope House Burners, or D.H.B., includes the words "burn next" on some buildings. 

The problem property was first brought to the attention of SCAN — Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods — in December, said SCAN Insp. Mike Letourneau, following complaints to police about the property. 

SCAN investigators, working with police and community members, determined there was drug activity "habitually occurring" at the house. They issued a warning letter to the owner in January and the tenants were to be evicted. However, police later determined the house was still occupied by three people. They were ordered off the property, and the home was declared unfit for human habitation on Feb. 23 by Alberta Health Services.  

A home inspection from AHS revealed 18 breaches of the Public Health Act and other regulations. Here's some of what was found at the house:

- Propane tanks stored inside the garage that was set on fire.

- New and used syringes found throughout the property.

- Large holes in the walls and ceilings.

- Mouse droppings under the kitchen sink.

- Multiple cracked, shattered and boarded-up windows.

- Bedroom windows nailed shut. 

- The garage and attic were being used for sleeping purposes. 

"It's beyond slumlord," said nearby resident Mark Vazquez-Mackay.

"I think [the property owner] just thought he could get some rent and he doesn't show up and he doesn't care. It's the same thing as down McDougall Road, you can find two more houses that are boarded up that will probably be set on fire soon."

Residents in the area are understandably on edge, Carra said. They've arranged a community meeting for Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Centre.

"The neighbourhood is doing everything they're supposed to be doing," Carra said.

Same person owns 4 lots

As for the city, Carra said he's working with bylaw, building codes officials, police and fire to ensure the issue is dealt with. He said he believes drug activity in the area is to blame for the vandalism and fires.

A string of four lots along McDougall Road, including the home targeted by arson, are all owned by the same person. Carra said the city is working to get the houses torn down and redeveloped "as quickly as possible."

"People are concerned with the limits of what we're able to legally do, but I think at the same time, they're mollified that every person we have that looks at these kinds of issues is now on the case 24/7 and we're making sure we're doing everything that we can," he said. 

CBC News has reached out to police as well as the property manager of the home. They were not immediately available for comment.

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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener