WARREN - Mick Adkins followed the smoke from the North Park area of the city to Tod Avenue N.W. to find out what was on fire Monday evening. The Warren man and his grandson, Mase, 5, joined dozens of people who gathered on the city's northwest side to watch city fire crews battle the fiery blaze at the former Pamela Manor apartment complex.
City residents have been complaining about the vacant apartments for years, and many of the spectators at the scene didn't appear concerned that at least one of the buildings might be on the verge of being destroyed.
Fire broke out at one of the the buildings around 7:30 p.m. Fire crews remained at the scene late into the night, attempting to stop the blaze from spreading from one apartment building to the other.
No injuries were reported. A damage estimate and probable cause of the fire were not available Monday night as firefighters remained on the scene. City fire officials said the fire is under investigation.
"This is amazing," Adkins said as he stood among a large crowd across the street in the parking lot of the old St. Joseph Riverside Hospital. "We didn't realize it was right here. We just saw the smoke and followed the trail 'til we made it here."
Neighborhood residents took pictures and some shot video of the blaze. Some people clapped as smoke spiraled from the structure and flames shot high into the sky and some put their hands out to catch the ashes as others wiped away debris clinging to them.
Warren fire crews worked for several hours Monday evening to squall the flames at one of the buildings in the former Pamela Manor apartment complex on Tod Avenue N.W. across from the old St. Joseph Riverside Hospital. Photo by Virginia Shank
"A lot of people have been waiting a long time to see something done about these buildings," said Alan McRoberts, a former resident. "I don't think too many people would be sorry to see it go. Of course, you hate to see it go like this, a fire and all. But still, it's been a sore spot for a long time. It's been empty a long time."
The two-building complex at 1157 and 1167 Tod Ave. N.W., owned by Riverside Club Apartments LLC, that lists a statutory agent as Donald L. Guarnieri, has been vacant since September 2001, according to a demolition notice. Most of the windows were broken with others boarded over.
The city has been fighting with the owner for years to have the two-building complex torn down and city officials and members of a neighborhood group staged a protest at the complex in July of 2010.
Officials shut down Tod Avenue and Garden Street N.W. However, that didn't stop streams of people from making their way to nearby parking lots and other areas to get the closest view possible.
Neighbors said that although the building is believed to be vacant, there had been squatters living there in the past.
Earlier this year, the Tribune Chronicle reported that frustrated residents complained to city officials because the condemned apartments, which had been ordered demolished, remained standing.