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Brasher code officer says trailer destroyed by fire should not have been occupied

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BRASHER FALLS — The home of a family of five that was destroyed in a fire Monday morning had code-compliance deficiencies and should not have been occupied, Brasher’s code enforcement officer told Town Council members Wednesday.

Robert W. Forbes said that the County Route 55 trailer, belonging to Justin and Heather Soulia and their three children, ages 5, 3 and 1, had no working septic system and electrical power was being supplied by a neighbor.

“That should never have happened. They were not supposed to be living there,” Mr. Forbes said.

The fire, which broke out shortly after 8 a.m. Monday, gutted the trailer. Fire departments from Helena, Brasher-Winthrop and North Lawrence responded, as did the Tri-Town Volunteer Rescue Squad and the American Red Cross.

Mrs. Soulia and the children were home at the time of the blaze, which Helena Fire Chief Frank Burns said was caused by a kerosene heater.

Mr. Forbes said there were other problems that should have kept the trailer from being occupied, and that he had shared those with the residents. At the time, he said, he was told nobody was living there.

He said the Soulias were running two extension cords to a neighbor’s house for electricity, including one to power a refrigerator, and a code-approved septic system had not been installed.

“The septic system was not done,” Mr. Forbes said. “I don’t know what they were doing for a septic system. There was no power to the meter box. For that man to move those children into that place under those conditions is just unacceptable.”

“There has to be some jurisdictional agency that will take a look,” town Supervisor M. James Dawson said. “The thing is, a situation like this, somebody could have died. The one good thing is a tragedy was averted.”

Mr. Forbes said he had called the state Department of State to see what his options were as code enforcement officer. He said he was told that he could issue a summons to the Soulias for living in the home after they had been told it wasn’t to be occupied.

Council members decided to give Mr. Forbes the authority to initiate eviction procedures if he runs into similar cases. Each eviction will cost the town $50.

Councilman John M. Keenan also suggested that a property could be condemned by the code enforcement officer if it is uninhabitable.

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