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Razing Buildings That Are Hazards

Had the house at 10 S. Frazier Ave. in Wheeling that caught fire early Tuesday been limited to that vacant structure, it is unlikely many tears would have been shed over it. The home was on a list of buildings scheduled to be demolished by the city anyway.

But the flames spread, destroying an adjacent home and damaging another. Thankfully, no one was injured.

The obvious question is whether the catastrophe, leaving one family homeless, could have been avoided by speedier action by city officials. Had the 10 S. Frazier Ave. house been torn down sooner, there would have been no fire.

As we reported, it was in July 2018 that the owner of the vacant 10 S. Frazier Ave. house was notified it was in violation of city property maintenance rules. After an October 2018 court appearance, the owner failed to attend later court sessions. Eventually, the building was condemned and placed on a list of structures to be razed by the city.

Due process requirements for owners of dilapidated buildings are important, but they take time. So does scraping up enough money to pay a contractor to demolish structures.

City officials should look into the situation to ensure they moved expeditiously, of course. But our experience with similar situations is that the process with 10 S. Frazier Ave. was not unusually slow.

Still, what happened this week is a reminder of the need to deal with dangerous buildings as expeditiously as possible. In addition to the health and safety hazards they represent, there always is the possibility of a disaster such as that on Tuesday.

City officials and perhaps state legislators, should consider whether additional steps can be taken to accelerate the process of dealing with dilapidated buildings — without infringing upon the rights of their owners.

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