Gulfport Fire Chief Says Abandoned Buildings Have Got To Go

Fire Chief Pat Sullivan doesn't have to go far to find potential fire traps in downtown Gulfport.

"It's had a very storied life," Sullivan says pointing to the old Markham Hotel. "It's a great old building."

Sullivan says the Markham building is actually an example of owners doing the right thing with a derelict building.

"All this is boarded up on the front side here."

Unfortunately says Sullivan, the Markham is more the exception than the rule.

"There's no security here," he says waling through the open front door of a next door building. "Anyone can get in here."

And Sullivan says these dark doorways are favorite haunts of the homeless, and havens for criminal activity.

"It's not just a fire issue. It's not just a code enforcement issue. It's also a law enforcement issue and it's a community issue. Nobody in the community should have to either live next door to, or work next door to, or have to put up with these type of buildings being in the shape their in, having the problems they have, for the amount of time that we've had to do it.

Sullivan says he understands the issues these property owners face in rebuilding, tearing down or selling out, but he says the time for them to decide has arrived.

"We work as closely as we can with all the entities involved and get everybody at a table and say, OK, if this is going to happen, when is it going to happen. How are you going to do it and when can we expect results on your end.

And Sullivan says if they don't see results, they'll be back.

"We're going to be coming back to you, and as politely as we can say, it comes down now, at their expense."

He would like to avoid court action. He's not ruling it out.

"They've just got to come down, and if that takes a court action then we don't mind doing it."

by Don Culpepper