NEW ORLEANS --
Some New Orleans residents wonder whether a new campaign designed to protect firefighters will protect their property in the long run.
Firefighters want other fire crews to get the message that more than 10,000 abandoned properties are not safe, WDSU NewsChannel 6's Rachel Wulff reported.
New Orleans Fire Department spokesman Jonathan Pajeaud said the department is looking for dangerous, dilapidated properties that have problems, including termite damage.
Crews mark the properties with signs that have an "X" on them. It's part of the program called Assessing, Identifying and Mitigating Properties Unsafe to Firefighters (AIM).
"It's strictly for internal fire department (use) to let us know, in the middle of the night, when we pull up, when we see the tape, the light shines off of it to let us know that the property is hazardous," Pajeaud said.
A federal grant funds the year-long program, which has a goal to mark 1,000 properties for good measure.
"We've had some close calls with abandoned properties, floors, walls, guys going in with no floors in these buildings. We're worried someone might break a leg," Pajeaud said.
Crews have since marked a string of properties along Washington Avenue, one of which is a double. George Galloway lives on one side of the house while renovating the other, which was the side that was tagged.
"I boarded it up so nobody can get in it. When it gets cold, I worry about people seeking shelter," said Pajeaud.
Galloway is more worried about squatters breaking into the house next door. On Sunday night, the owner of a home on Clio Street said squatters were to blame for a two-alarm fire. If the same thing happened on Washington Avenue, fire crews wouldn't enter the home because of the warning on the sign.
"I'd worry about that, because flames would probably jump over to our house. I thought they were supposed to keep the public safe, too?" Galloway said.
The AIM program runs from last April to April of this year. It is not connected to the city's blighted housing initiative. The fire department is trying to find more grant money from another source to keep the program running.
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