City demolishes home, plans to tear down church after West 37th Street fire

Local News

SAVANNAH, GA. (WSAV) – Earlier this week, a fire badly damaged two homes and a church on Savannah’s Westside.

City officials said two of those buildings have become a safety hazard and need to be torn down.

Sunday night flames charred three structures on West 37th Street including the historic First Metropolitan Baptist Church. By Monday, morning firefighters had put out the blaze, but safety issues were far from over.

“We work very closely with Savannah Fire and Development Services,” said Kevin Milton, Director of Code Compliance. “So we knew here we had a life safety issue for the public.”

According to Milton, two of the buildings that caught fire could collapse at any moment.

“Ultimately it’s the property owner’s responsibility to address the safety issues,” said Milton. “But, the city is willing to step in because we routinely conduct demolitions of properties.”

Milton said in extreme cases like this the demolition process moves faster. Contractors tore down the residence where the fire originated on Tuesday night.

“In cases like this, where the asbestos is nearly burned with the structure, and rats are gone with the fire as well, those are kind of waved by development services,” said Milton. “They were able to issue a permit for contractors to begin the work.”

But tearing down the First Metropolitan Baptist church has been slow going. According to Milton, because the property is owned by an organization rather than an individual, several signatures are needed on the demolition waiver.

“Essentially, they owe us a document that under their constitution or charter who can sign for the responsibility of the property,” Milton explained, adding, “Once we get that document, we get those individuals in to sign the document and we get demolition going in a matter of hours.”

Fire officials are still investigating what caused the fire but they do not suspect arson.

As of now, road closures near the site are expected to last until Friday.

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