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Neighbors don't mourn loss of abandoned house

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Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001 10:00 pm

Neighbors of an abandoned East Lockeford Street house which burned to the ground Sunday say they are glad to see it gone.

The house - which attracted transients and suspected drug traffickers - was owned by the city of Lodi but had been abandoned for several years.

Sharon Reiswig, who has lived near the house for 37 years, called the fire "a cheerful event."

"There were a lot of problems, a lot of transients sleeping in there," said Reiswig, who added that she feels sorry for the people who called the old house home.

Ramona Fitch, who was visiting her brother, Calvin Kurle, when they heard the sirens. She and her brother joined many other spectators who watched as firefighters tried to contain the flames.

"The whole back porch was in flames," Fitch said. "It was really windy and when the flames would get really big they'd spray it enough to quiet it down."

Tina McCormick recalled seeing homeless people coming and going and once called the police about what she and her husband believed to be drug-trafficking. Another neighbor, Carol Blanco, had called the police several times. She said the police would come, take the transients out and as soon as the police were gone they would go back in.

Battalion Chief George Juelch said the fire started in the back of the house. The fire appeared to burn up the side of the house and into the attic.

Juelch estimated the wind speed at the time of the fire to be over 15 mph. High winds always contribute to an attic fire, he said.

"I knew the building was vacant and the city owned it. Once I realized that it was no longer safe for our crews I decided to back off and make it a controlled burn," Juelch said.

The cause of the fire was not yet known, but is still under investigation, he said.

Fire Chief Michael Pretz estimated damages to be at $200,000.

Initially, three engine crews and a truck responded to the fire. Off-duty personnel were called in to man the stations while crews contained the blaze, Juelch said. No surrounding structures were in danger, he said.

Additionally, he made sure to save the surrounding old trees while the fire was being contained, Juelch said.

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