Four families were squeezed into a two-family home, with some of them living in illegal basement and attic apartments, according to an investigation after Wednesday evening's fire.
Police officers who were among the first responders photographed illegal basement living quarters, including a full kitchen, bathroom and bedroom, when they catalogued the damage after Wednesday's fire at 67 Grace Church St.
The officers passed the photos and information on to code enforcement inspectors, who completed a more thorough review of the home after firefighters brought the blaze under control.
Inspectors "found numerous violations including overcrowding, illegal attic and illegal basement occupancy," Assistant Village Manager Christopher Steers wrote in an e-mail to the Board of Trustees.
The fire started during renovations to the basement. A contractor was hired to seal the foundation to prevent flooding; when a worker with a torch got too close to an area with exposed siding, "the torch ignited the wood sheeting under the aluminum siding," Steers wrote.
Wednesday's blaze was the latest in a long list of fires associated with safety violations and code violations. A fire at an Oak Street home in early June left more than 20 people homeless, and a subsequent review revealed hazardous electrical wiring, overcrowding and other violations.
In July, 16 people were left homeless and local businesses were shut down for a month after a North Main Street building caught fire. Authorities say the building's owner ignored safety inspection notices dating back to last year.
Last year, a former fire chief paid hefty fines in court after he co-owned caught fire; inspectors found unsafe conditions, an illegally-enclosed porch and other violations.
The owner of the Grace Church Street home was cited for previous violations more than two decades ago. Inspectors are drafting charges for violations found after Wednesday's fire, "with an approximate count of 15-20 charges pending the results of the permit history review," Steers wrote.
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