MILWAUKEE — The court-ordered deadline for the owners of the vacant Northridge Mall to secure the property came and went Friday evening.
There did not appear to be much action to make changes leading up to it. Fencing around the site was inconsistent and broken windows were still accessible.
Around 3 p.m. on Friday, a group of people including building inspectors, Milwaukee Fire, police, and a representative for the owners, U.S. Black Spruce Enterprises, met outside of the old mall.
The mayor's office said members of his team would be here documenting compliance with court orders as he remains extremely concerned about the dangers firefighters face when responding to repeated fires here.
Following the walk through, Milwaukee Fire Chief Aaron Lipski spoke to the media.
"I will tell you that beyond a reasonable doubt, if this building burns again, my firefighters are in extreme danger. That’s what I found today, and that’s unacceptable. But we are going to let the system play out," said Chief Lipski.
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There have been four cases of suspected arson at the property within the last month prompting Chief Lipski to demand immediate action.
A few days ago, a judge said if the owners were not complying with a 2019 agreement and ordered they secure the property by the end of the workday Friday or face a daily $2,000 fine.
The Department of City Development said that a city contractor regularly checks the city-owned Boston Store to ensure that is secure.
"Public safety is our number one concern," said Vanessa Koster, the City Development deputy chief. "We were here collecting information on future uses. And the Department of City Development and the Department of Neighborhood Services have no further comment.”
Koster said that the Department of Neighborhood Services is putting together a report following Friday's walk-through. Based on that report, the courts will determine what action, including the aforementioned fine, to take against U.S. Black Spruce Enterprises.
Lipski added that despite the dangers to his firefighters, they won't let the building burn. Someone starts those fires, he said, and may still be inside.
"It is not our responsibility nor our aim to play judge, jury and executioner, no matter how ridiculous that may sound," said Lipski. "It is our responsibility to safe human life. And so we have to at least make an attempt to clear this building."
In a statement Friday, Mayor Cavalier Johnson said, "I remain extremely concerned about the dangers Milwaukee firefighters are facing from the repeated fires at this location. Their safety is the paramount worry I have with the conditions at the former mall."