MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A blighted apartment building near the Medical District went up in flames Wednesday afternoon.
The rain helped the 47 emergency personnel put out the flames in the old apartment complex on Exchange Avenue near Poplar and Danny Thomas.
Memphis fire officials said they think someone started a fire on the second floor to stay warm, and it quickly spread.
“You’ve got insistences where children play in the street, and they have this kind of safety concern on the block they live in,” said Jerred Price, a nearby neighbor who rushed to the scene Wednesday.
He said he’s been trying to get the city to tear down the empty building for more than a year.
“There are clothes. There are beds over there. People sleeping in them. There are people doing drugs, which could have easily started this fire,” Price said.
Other neighbors attest to the dozens of people they’ve seen bunker up in the blight.
“I want to rebuild the neighborhood, but until something can be done to rebuild, it’s better than being out in the rain,” Roger Wolcott said.
He and his wife run Constance Abbey, a ministry just a block away that helps those in need, including some people who sought shelter in the now-scorched building.
“One of them was here today to use the telephone to make an appointment with a housing outreach worker for housing,” he said.
Tax records show the building belongs to Five Nine Five Exchange LLC, but WREG couldn’t find any information about the company.
The city said the property owners are in environmental court and would get back to us with more information soon.
“They are not safe, which is why we need to address buildings like this to keep our neighborhoods, kids and homeless safe,” Price said.
Safe seems to be the word people on Exchange are looking for.
“We feed these people,” Wolcott said. “They are human beings and deserve better, but there isn’t better.”
WREG will continue to investigate what happens with what’s left of the building.