Fire roars through Garfield apartment building

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A four-alarm fire ripped through an apartment building Wednesday morning in Garfield, leaving one firefighter in the hospital and many residents homeless.

Tracey Woods, who had lived in the building for a year, said she and her husband awoke to the sound of yelling. At first, she thought it was just the neighbors quarreling, but soon people were knocking on the door telling them to flee, she said.

No residents were reported to be injured.

Firefighters battle apartment blaze in Garfield

A fire at an apartment building in Garfield this morning resulted in several firetrucks and scores of emergency personnel called to the scene. No injuries were reported. (Video by Nate guidry; 6/18/2014)

Firefighters sat curbside dousing themselves with bottled water as emergency crews began departing and Salvation Army workers handing out water replaced them. Red Cross coordinators worked to find shelter for those without family nearby.

Julie Stevenson, who moved into the building in March, stood on the sidewalk smoking a cigarette, eyes on the still-smoking building hours after the fire broke out.

“I worked so hard for this,” she said. “I was getting ready to fix it up and everything, and this is what I get.”

Many residents vented about a building that they said was neglected and used for illicit activity.

“I’m just really angry,” said Elwood Harston, who moved in seven months ago with a roommate. He echoed the words of many other residents and witnesses when he said the fire began on the third floor, which was unoccupied. The building was often frequented for nefarious purposes, he said.

“You’‍ll see the occasional drug dealer or something run up in this building,” he said.

County records indicate that Iftikhar Malik, president of Malik Enterprises, owns the building. In January, the district attorney’s office confirmed that Mr. Malik owned two McDonald’‍s restaurants that were the site of heroin dealing. Officials said they did not believe Mr. Malik was aware of the drug activity at the restaurants.

A resident of the burned apartment building filed a complaint with the city Building Inspection Department in October, department chief Maura Kennedy said Wednesday. The department’s subsequent investigation found rotting, leaking gutters and problems with the foundation. When Mr. Malik failed to make improvements, the complaint was sent to court on April 28. A court date had not yet been determined.

A man identified as Mr. Malik declined to comment.

Matt Nussbaum: or 412-263-1504. First Published June 18, 2014 9:49 AM

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