BY KEN LITTLE
A controlled burn Wednesday afternoon laid waste to two dilapidated houses in the 300 block of North Loretta Street.
Plans are for another adjacent eyesore house to be burned today.
The houses on North Loretta Street are the first of a group of run-down properties in Greeneville scheduled to be burned or razed, said Greeneville building officer Jeff Woods.
The fires Wednesday were closely tended by the Greeneville Fire Department, as will be the one today, Capt. Marty Shelton said.
The fires in the houses were ignited about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Smoke from the burning structures could be seen across the downtown area.
"There's just debris now," Shelton said Wednesday afternoon.
"They were two old houses that were condemned. It was handled through the Building Department," Shelton said.
Woods coordinated the controlled burn and was at the site between North Nelson and A streets Wednesday.
The houses at 315, 317 and 319 North Loretta St. have been vacant since at least 2004 and were literally falling down.
One of the small, one-story wood frame houses that was burned Wedensday, at 319 Loretta St., had been the scene of two previous fires, Woods said.
"It was ready to fall onto North Loretta Street," he said. "We're in the process of property maintenance to clean up these properties."
There have been reports of homeless people living in the houses and drug use there, he said. The houses date back to the 1950s or earlier.
"We've already had people in this neighborhood come and thank us for cleaning up these properties," Woods said. "We've gotten so many complaints."
Two of the houses are owned by a Chuckey man, and another is owned by a Bluff City resident.
The owners were put on notice and given 90 days to clean up the properties or get permits to renovate them, but both declined, Woods said.
"They were willing to have these properties come down. They know they are in poor repair," he said. "They bought them sight unseen and these houses have already been gutted inside. There's nothing left of them."
The houses were less than 1,000 square-feet each, and had no basements.
The town will clean up the properties and then put a lien on them to help pay for the work, Woods said.
The house that will be part of a controlled burn today has a metal roof, which will be removed first and sold to recoup part of the expense of cleaning up the lot, Woods said.
Fire officials said today that no hazardous chemicals are involved "and only clean materials are being burned."
North Loretta Street in the area the houses were located will be blocked off today while firefighters and public works crews finish their work, Woods said.
Other condemned properties in Greeneville will meet the same fate in upcoming months, Woods said.