PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland landlord whose building was the site of Maine’s deadliest fire in four decades is being taken to task by residents in another of his properties this week.
Tenants in landlord Gregory Nisbet’s building at 188 Dartmouth St. told Portland television station WGME, CBS 13, they believe the building is dangerous.
In response to a request from the residents, city officials inspected the property on Monday, and Portland Fire Capt. David Petruccelli told CBS 13 he planned to cite code violations for the building’s heating system and the fact that it had “trash and combustibles in the common hallways.”
The city fielded similar complaints about buildup of trash and combustibles at Nisbet’s property at 20-24 Noyes St. during the months and years before a Nov. 1 blaze there that claimed the lives of six people.
The family of at least one of those victims, 29-year-old Rockland man Steven Summers, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Nisbet, alleging the landlord left the Noyes Street property in a state of disrepair and ignored tenants’ requests for repairs.
An ongoing investigation into the Nov. 1 fire is expected to determine, in addition to a potential cause of the blaze, whether there were adequate fire escapes for occupants, including from the third-floor, which was apparently being used as living space.
Both 20-24 Noyes St. and 188 Dartmouth St. are under bank foreclosures, CBS 13 reported.
Now, tenants at the Dartmouth Street home are saying the landlord is leaving them in a structure just as concerning as the one on Noyes Street.
“We’ve been reporting these problems — same as the tenants at Noyes Street — and nothing’s been fixed,” Roxann White, who has lived at 188 Dartmouth St. for about seven months, told CBS 13. “I had best friends that died there; we don’t want to end up like that.”
Added fellow tenant Noor Ibrahim: “What worries me sometimes at night [is the question of] what if there’s a fire? Where’s the escape?”
The city of Portland received two complaints about 188 Dartmouth St. in September, according to CBS 13, with one reading, in part: “Homeless people are living in the garage. There is no plumbing.They urinate in buckets and dump outside. There is also trash in the yard.”
A follow-up inspection found no one living in the garage, but did result in the trash being cleaned up, according to the television station.
“We don’t want to live like this. It’s not right that we pay rent to live in this place,” White told CBS 13.
Attorney John Veilleux, representing Nisbet, suggested to CBS 13 that a former tenant at 188 Dartmouth St. is responsible for damage to the building, and that the landlord is working to resolve the issue.
Petruccelli told the television station there are no immediate dangers at the Dartmouth Street residence, but the two-family home is being effectively used as a boarding house — with seven residents — and is subject to different code requirements as a result.
“My process requires me to give the owner 32 days to work on things,” Petruccelli said, according to CBS 13. “So, it’s starting a clock, but it’s not going to give you the instant satisfaction you want.”
In response to the Noyes Street fire, the city of Portland has assembled a task force to review city fire and codes inspection policies and procedures. That panel, which is being led in part by Boston Deputy Fire Chief Joseph Fleming, is due to make its recommendations to the City Council in February.
In addition to Summers, the Nov. 1 fire claimed the lives of tenants David Bragdon, 27; Ashley Thomas, 29; and Nicole Finlay, 26; as well as visitors to the building Christopher Conlee, 25, of Portland and Maelisha Jackson, 23, of Topsham. Bragdon’s family said earlier this month that they have hired an attorney to file a separate wrongful death suit against Nisbet.
The fire was reported just after 7 a.m., the morning after a Halloween party reportedly took place at the home.