Code enforcement deems downtown Tyler building that caught fire ‘unsafe’

Signs of homeless people found inside abandoned building that caught fire
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Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 7:21 PM CST
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - The owner of the downtown Tyler building that caught fire Wednesday has two options: either bring it up to code or demolish it.

The former Tysen House building on East Erwin, which was supposed to be vacant, was not, and several people had to be rescued.

Tyler's code enforcement manager takes a photo of the building that caught fire.
Tyler's code enforcement manager takes a photo of the building that caught fire.(Blake Holland/KLTV)

Tyler firefighters and city code inspectors were back Thursday at 515 East Erwin, the scene of Wednesday’s fire from which six to seven people had to be rescued.

“Nothing here met the minimum standards,” said Chris Lennon, City of Tyler Code Enforcement Manager.

Lennon went inside the building Thursday morning, and what he saw led to a notice on the door stating the building is unsafe.

“Lots of signs of homeless people,” Lennon said. “Feces on the ground and urine smell. So the building has been tagged. We’ll notify the owner by certified mail.”

What Lennon found inside isn’t surprising to those in the area, like the owner of the Downtown Garage, located right across the street.

“I’ve seen people coming in and going out. You can tell they’re homeless people,” Downtown Garage owner Eli Mazallenez said.

He says in the three months he’s owned the garage, he’s even seen flames through the windows of the old building at night.

“You could see flames reflecting off the windows. I didn’t call at the time because I figured they were heating something since it’s wintertime.”

But starting Thursday, those found in the building will face penalties. City code requires the owner to secure the building within 48 hours of receiving notice. Next steps include the owner going before the Neighborhood Revitalization Board with plans to either bring the place up to code or tear it down.

“No one should be inside of that building until it’s been brought up to code,” Lennon said.

And with this notice now forcing changes, the hope is to prevent another situation like Wednesday’s fire that put lives in danger.

Firefighters had to rescue people from the building.
Firefighters had to rescue people from the building. (KLTV)

Still no word on the cause of that fire. One person was taken to the hospital for smoke inhalation and is said to be doing okay.

Several firefighters are also uninjured after falling into a water-filled pit inside the building.

RELATED STORY: Tyler firefighters avoid injury after falling through floor of burning abandoned building, rescue several occupants

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