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City leaders settle controversy over fire department's placarding vacant homes program

Posted: 6:01 PM, Sep 10, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-11 00:46:29Z

MILWAUKEE -- Misunderstanding no more. Two city leaders have settled the debate over marking vacant properties.

Alderman Robert Bauman didn't hold back Monday morning during a Joint Committee on Redevelopment of Abandoned and Foreclosed Homes meeting. He expressed his concerns about how the Milwaukee Fire Department rolled out its vacant building placarding program. 

"What are we, chopped liver, to not be in the loop on this?" Alderman Bauman asked. 

Fire officials report departments all across the country put plywood markers on abandoned properties. The goal is to let firefighters know of any immediate hazards.

"If it's an issue, shame on me for not being on top of it in 2011, 12, 13, 14, I'll make that apology," Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said.

According to the Milwaukee Fire Department, there are more than 3,500 vacant properties in the city. Of those, 428 are on the demolition list -178 of the properties have placards and 29 of those have 'x' marks which indicates extreme hazard.  In those cases, a firefighter should only enter to save a life. Fire Chief Mark Rohlfing said the controversy over the program simply amounts to a lapse in communication.

"I think it's just communication in general. Maybe not enough questions. I told the alderman, I'll certainly take my share of the blame where we didn't share this as robustly as we should," Chief Rohlfing said.