Neighbors Fuming After Hazleton Fire

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HAZLETON -- John and Kay Steiner moved into their home at 586 McKinley Street in 1965. Now they are leaving with broken hearts.

Sunday morning, the double block home next door at 590-592 went up in flames, flames that badly damaged the Steiner's red one-story home just feet away.

John says, for years, he has expected something like this might happen.

The green two-story home, which was divided into five apartments has been the source of nearly a decade of disputes involving its elderly out-of-state owners, tenants and contractors, Hazleton Code Enforcement and neighbors including the Steiners.

Code Enforcement Officer Richard Wech says that, over the past decade, the property had been condemned three or four times. At first, there were problems that the owners could fix, like a collapsed ceiling, but recently, the problems with the house grew more serious.

He says in the past year police and code enforcement have had to remove people staying in the property illegally, and that, recently, one portion of the house even had the electricity turned back on, something that violated the order to condemn.

Detective David Rodick of the Hazleton Police Department says that neighbors have repeatedly called to complain about transients in the house, and the department has removed people who were there without permission.

Neighbor Victor Graham says in recent weeks he has seen what appeared to be a party at the house. "People carrying bags, stumbling into the apartment, just hanging outside."

Steiner says, "I've been trying to get them to do something for years and no results. Now I am the one who ends up with the short end of the stick."

He must now find a new place to live for himself and his wife who is undergoing treatment for cancer. It probably won't be in Hazleton.

"I think it is a good city to get out of," he says.