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City working to clear up destroyed property

September 27, 2018 GMT

PRIMERA — Maria Garcia doesn’t like seeing the pile of burned down wood and bricks at the entrance of her neighborhood.

To make matters worse, she has to walk past what’s left of the burned down home every day.

“It looks bad,” said Garcia, 59, a Southfork Circle resident. “I never found out why the fire started and I didn’t see it burn down.”

The charred, abandoned home left in shambles has turned into a neighborhood danger zone.

Garcia and many others have had concerns about the property and constantly warn children to stay away from the pile of rubble filled with ash logs and charred bricks.

On rainy days the odor of the fire and chemicals fills the air. The property has become a place people dump trash and other unwanted items.

It attracts rodents, and the debris left over from the fire is creeping closer and closer to the neighborhood street.

For nearly five months concerned homeowners have looked to the cities of Harlingen and Primera for answers.

Garcia, who lives a block away, said she was sound asleep during the fire.

The inferno that claimed two homes took place in the Southfork Estates subdivision off Wilson Road on April 16 after midnight.

She noticed the damage to the neighborhood in the morning when she took her dog out for a walk.

Garcia said the home had been abandoned for two years before the fire struck.

Many wanted to know who owned the property and when the burned down home would be cleaned up.

They didn’t find answers.

And now after the neighborhood has waited patiently for so many months, something is being done about it.

“If I was a homeowner I would be questioning, why is this thing still standing,” Primera Mayor David Kusch said.

“I know the neighborhood is upset, and I’m sympathetic to their plight.”

Kusch called the burned down home an eyesore.

He said it impacts the people who live in that area and it degrades their property — and it’s dangerous.

“That should be cleaned up within 30 to 45 days,” Kusch said.

City leaders in Primera have taken steps to get the property cleared.

They have reached out to the property owner.

The subdivision owner of record is Associates Financial Services Company Inc.

On Sept. 11 the city published that it would hold a condemnation hearing on the property for violating health and safety codes.

The hearing took place on Sept. 18 and members of the neighborhood attended to express their concerns about the property.

“Based on the steps we have taken, if they are not responsive we are going to condemn the property and we will clean it up if they don’t clean it up,” Kusch said.

He said the city has had to follow a procedure within the law to clear up the property.

A neighborhood resident who asked not to be named said the house next to hers caught fire and turned into a blazing inferno.

She said she was alerted after her pets began barking.

She said it was by the grace of God her house didn’t go up in flames.

The Harlingen Fire Department responded to the fire after receiving the call at 12:52 a.m.

The La Feria Fire Department was also on the scene helping to put out the blaze.

According to neighborhood accounts, some homeowners turned on their sprinkler systems, others filmed the fire and many watched in panic as firefighters worked to put out the fire.

According to neighbors a week later, one of the two homes that burned down was cleaned up.

The other house has stood in shambles since that night.

rgarcia@valleystar.com