Town levels property damaged in blaze

By Beth A. Birmingham | Mar 19, 2019
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham A home on Oyster River Road in Warren that burned last fall has been leveled by the town.

Warren — The town of Warren is under fire for demolishing a dwelling at 1140 Oyster River Road that had been heavily damaged by fire last October.

Former occupant Marika Crockett said March 19 that her husband, Richard, came home March 15 and said, "Sweetheart, they've leveled the house. Everything is gone."

Town Manager Bill Lawrence said the house had been owned by Anna May Crockett, who died in December 2014, and the town foreclosed on the property for nonpayment of taxes Jan. 8, 2018.

"The homeowners were notified during all the foreclosure steps," Lawrence said. "Since we own the property, it has become our responsibility and was dangerous."

Lawrence further said the property and its contents were destroyed in the fire.

Crockett said she had not been notified of any foreclosure, but has been receiving communications from two mortgage companies.

“We are required to send certified letters to the homeowner at the last known address,” Lawrence said. “Richard Crockett had signed for some of the certified letters and some were sent back to the town as unclaimed.”

He further stated that both banks were notified, but they chose not to pay the back taxes.

Following the blaze that left the residence uninhabitable, the Crocketts spent some time at the Rockland Harbor Hotel before finding an apartment in Rockland.

According to Crockett, the couple had been going back to the property every so often to gather personal belongings.

Since the fire last October, Lawrence said the town was never given any contact information, and thus was unable to contact the Crocketts; he said the Crocketts have never reached out to the town.

Crockett said they were not given any notice of the scheduled demolition, or she would have gotten the family together and gone in to salvage whatever other personal items they could.

"There was a lot of stuff that can't be replaced," she said, including artwork her mother-in-law had left behind, more than $10,000 in computer equipment, and an old floor-model stereo of her father's dating back to the '70s, among other antiques.

“Once we take ownership of the property, our insurance company requests it be secured,” Lawrence said. “Entrance into the house was not safe, and there were mounds of garbage left in the house.”

Crockett said the property was not a total loss, and that the fire only demolished the living room area. She said the couple are in the process of contacting their attorney to see if they have a case against the town for the demolition.

Lawrence said the property would be going out to bid soon.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@villagesoup.com.

The burned-out remains of the home at 1140 Oyster River Road in Warren following an early morning fire Oct. 22, 2018, that is believed to have been started by a space heater. All three occupants were taken to the hospital. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
Damage done to the living room area. (Courtesy of: Marika Crockett)
(Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
The caution tape was still on the ground after the property at 1140 Oyster River Road was leveled by the town of Warren March 9. (Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham)
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