On December 10, a building on McClellan Street in Schenectady was heavily damaged by fire. The building contained five one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors and Iglesia Pentecostal Puerta de Bendicion, a church, on the first floor.
Around the time the fire erupted at 1 p.m. in the afternoon, a 48-year-old female tenant was seen fleeing from the building. Witnesses report that she was frantically circling barefoot in the street, dressed only in a nightgown. The woman was arrested and charged with possession of cocaine, and has been questioned in connection with the suspicious fire.
When the fire erupted, two construction workers who were in the Horses Lounge two doors away from the burning building ran into the building to warn the people in their apartments. At first, it was believed that no one was killed by the blaze, but the building was damaged to the extent that authorities believed it needed to be torn down. Because the city deemed the building unsafe and required emergency demolition, the city cited the landlord for maintaining unsafe conditions and it will try to recover the expenses of demolition.
It is bad enough to be cited for expenses related to the demolition of your own building or to be charged with cocaine possession. However, the situation may have drastically worsened for the landlord or the woman being questioned in connection with the blaze. During the razing of the building, the wrecking crew suddenly halted the demolition upon the grim discovery of a man’s body in the rubble.
If a landlord maintains property in an unsafe condition that causes death or injury to a tenant, the landlord can be held responsible for the harm caused by the unsafe condition. If fire investigators learn that the fire was caused by a negligent act or omission, then the person who caused or contributed to the fire may be facing a civil lawsuit for wrongful death.
Albany Times Union, “Body found in rubble of Schenectady fire scene,” Paul Nelson, 12/31/2010
Albany Times Union, “Burned building to come down,” Paul Nelson, 12/30/2010
Albany Times Union, “Police to talk to woman about fire,” Paul Nelson, 12/14/2010