Massachusetts Firefighters Root Out Illegal Apartments

QUINCY, Mass. --

A day after finding families living in potentially dangerous conditions, Quincy inspectors are on the hunt for more illegal apartments.

NewsCenter 5's Amalia Barreda reported that Quincy fire officials toured the city on Thursday, hoping to locate illegal apartments like the one that trapped a father and his two children in a fatal fire last month. Officials said that the apartments they identified during the sweeps may be the tip of the iceberg.

A home at 247 North Central Ave. is one example of the illegal rooming houses that dot the city, according to police. A task force found 10 illegal apartments in the building, which had no heat and only one working smoke detector, police said.

Officers spent the day knocking on doors and following up on anonymous tips about residents living in unsafe conditions. At one property, task force members were tipped off to a potential illegal apartment by an air conditioner poking out of an attic window. At another property on Freeman Street, officials said they found eight illegal units spread throughout the basement and second floor of the building.

Police told the landlord??s son that the tenants would need to move out immediately. Fire Chief Joseph Barron said fire officials are acting in the interest of residents who are put at risk by the unsafe living conditions.

"(The building has) all substandard electrical wiring, so we just have no comfort level with the ability of this to be safe," said Barron.

The crackdown comes one week after a devastating fire destroyed an illegal basement apartment at 100 Robertson St. that killed three members of one family.

"My problem as a fire deputy is the means of egress," said Deputy Chief Paul Griffith. "The locked doors slow us down on searching the building if there is a fire and it's all smoke."

"These rooms are not heated," said Quincy Building Inspector Jim Anderson. "They bring their own space heaters in, so it is a tragedy waiting to happen."

A fire watch was posted at one property cited during the task force investigation. At the expense of the landlord, a team of firefighters will keep watch over the property until all of the code violations have been corrected, fire officials said.

"I'm very disappointed," said Barron. "This is my city and I have to be able to have a comfort level that these citizens are safe, and finding things like this is not the case."

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