Alderman calls for firefighters to stop marking abandoned homes

MILWAUKEE, WI - Orange marks the spot --one alderman is pleading with the Milwaukee Fire Department to stop the way it labels hazardous homes. 

According to Alderman Robert Bauman, who represents district 4 on Milwaukee's northwest side, the fire department is essentially spotlighting an eyesore --marking abandon homes with orange painted squares like the one right across the street from Molly Moore's home.

“They put [the marks] up there, what does that mean?" Moore said. "Nothing has changed, something has to change."

Moore said the orange mark doesn’t bother her as much as the problems that come along with living so close to a vacant property.

"It’s not so much the sign, it’s the house," Moore said. 

According to Alderman Bauman, the fire department is using three types of square symbols with orange paint that indicate a different level of danger —a square with a slash across it suggests the interior of the home is badly damaged. Bauman said the fire department started this practice without letting anyone know.

“I have big problems with this," Alderman Bauman said. "This is essentially putting a scarlet letter on a lot of the properties in our neighborhood. Which sends a signal to folks in the neighborhood —open season, get what you can out of this house."

But the fire department said the square markers give firefighters a quick idea of general hazards associated with the home and when responding to an emergency if the structural stability of the home is in question first responders simply will not enter.

“If we want to start marking things in the interest of firefighter safety, let's go whole hog, let's mark everything, or follow our old practice if it’s on fire, put the fire out," Alderman Bauman said. 

During Tuesday's council meeting, Alderman Bauman asked for a temporary ban on this practice, but he said he is open to revisiting the topic and having a discussion with the fire department.

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