Tip List: Fire debris still on apartment's lawn

A pair of crusty jeans, some soggy drywall and a chunk of insulation make up part of the debris that spills across a Merced lawn in a limp pile.

The mess is from a burnt-out apartment building on West 25th and G streets. Visible scars from the December 2008 fire that destroyed the building still mark the path of the flames and smoke in black soot marks on the outer walls.

The building now appears to be abandoned. The building's doors and windows are covered in sheets of tan plywood, and the front gate has been padlocked.

And anyone who drives up G Street can see the trash strewn across the yard.

A tipster notified Tip List of the mess and wanted to know why it hasn't been cleaned up after almost three months have passed since the fire.

Capt. Morgan Madruga with the Merced Fire Department said that cleaning up after a fire is the responsibility of the homeowner. Sometimes insurance payments slow the cleanup efforts, he said. But sometimes the owners just don't get around to doing anything.

The city's assistant building official, Mike Stevenson, said he'll send the area's code enforcement officer to the apartment Thursday to address the issue.

"We can go out there and put together a nuisance abatement order for them," he said.

After that, the cleanup could take from 10 to 30 days, said Stevenson. If the property owner doesn't have the money for cleanup, he may get an extension, said Stevenson.

If the property has been foreclosed on, as many in the county have been, city officials will make attempts to go after the bank.

The building's owner, Jose Villasenor, according to the county's assessor, couldn't be reached for comment. So when or if he is going to clean up the mess without a nudge from the city is unknown.

What's broken: a burned apartment building and its mess are still marring the lawn of an apartment building on G Street three months after the fire.

Who is responsible: the building's owner, Jose Villasenor.

If you see something wrong or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter Jonah Owen Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.