Sunday, September 22, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 29

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on April 21st, 2015, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 16, Issue 7 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 16, Issue 7

Santa Maria is attempting to take over a house on North Thornburg Street after it catches fire


Santa Maria fire fighters successfully snuffed out a house fire on North Thornburg on April 20, and city officials are attempting to take ownership of the property due to a spate of code violations.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, and no injuries were reported, according to city Fire Chief Mike Barneich. And code enforcement officials said the home’s owner, Mark Burgess, was nowhere to be found as of press time on April 21.

The house at 1018 North Thornburg is a neighborhood nuisance, according to Santa Maria code officer Celia Lennon. On April 20, the house caught fire and was subsequently boarded up. Its owner, Mark Burgess, did not attend a recent court hearing regarding the house and is nowhere to be found.

On Dec. 30, 2014, the Sun profiled Burgess, whose house was yellow-tagged by code enforcement officials—essentially deeming it unlivable—after several aspects of the house were found to be out of compliance. Among other things, the house didn’t have electricity or decent plumbing.

The home had become so problematic, said Santa Maria code officer Celia Lennon, that the city sued Burgess in an attempt to try to get him to bring it into compliance. During one of her compliance checks last October, Lennon reported that a pair of jumper cables was supplying electricity to the house and that the backyard was being used as a bathroom.

Neighbors complained to the city for months, alleging constant fighting and visible drug use.

One neighbor, who only wanted to identify herself as Ivonne, said that activity at the home picked up in the last three weeks and that she called the police several times to complain, but they weren’t able to do anything except issue citations.

Ivonne said she knows Burgess personally, but hasn’t seen him for months and suspected that he might not be aware of what’s going on with his home. In the months following the Sun’s original story, Ivonne said, the seemingly abandoned home was being used by random people.

Another resident familiar with the situation, who didn’t want to be identified, said that a young woman with a baby was living in the home without electricity or running water.

After the fire, the house was boarded up. Police were ordered to arrest anyone caught trespassing on the site, according to City Attorney Philip Sinco.

According to Lennon from code compliance, the city took the issue to court on April 21 and filed for receivership to have a third party take over the property in the hopes it can be revitalized.

Lennon said Burgess was not present at the court hearing.

“Mr. Burgess had a chance to protect his interests, but he didn’t,” Sinco said, adding that he’s working on fencing off the property to prevent it from becoming a further nuisance.

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