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I-Team: Building where Sanford fire started had numerous code violations

Investigators say the cause is "undetermined," but not suspicious. (David Clarke)

SANFORD (WGME) – The I-Team discovered a history of code violations, one day after Thursday’s massive fire ripped through a Sanford neighborhood.

Investigators say the cause is "undetermined," but not suspicious.

They say it started outside one of the two apartment buildings that were destroyed.

It's just a pile of rubble now.

According to investigators, this fire started at 33 Island Avenue, which had to be torn down Thursday night.

Police say they've responded there for drugs in the past, and it's also been cited for code violations, the most recent just three days ago.

People in the Sanford neighborhood woke up Friday wishing it had just been a bad dream.

The five alarm fire broke out shortly after 1 on Thursday afternoon, quickly spreading to nearby buildings. Two were destroyed, four others damaged.

Sanford Fire Chief Steve Benotti says it started outside 33 Island Avenue, a 3-story apartment building. The cause is undetermined, but believed to be accidental.

“I believe it happened quite some time earlier and just smoldered until finally the fire broke out and people were unaware of it,” Benotti said.

The CBS 13 I-Team discovered a history of code violations at the building, and the single family residence next door that sits on the same property.

According to public records, violations for trash accumulation date back to 2011, with the most recent notice dated October 17, two days before the fire.

“One of the code officers had been even up Island path the day before, and had actually witnessed the amount of accumulation of trash at that building, so we have firsthand knowledge that there was a fair amount of that fuel load at the building at the time,” Benotti said.

Benotti says that made the fire spread even faster.

The property manager says the debris was left behind by tenants, and he planned to remove it by Saturday.

Deputy Mayor Maura Herlihy says housing conditions in the city's densely packed neighborhood have been a big concern. In fact, a new ordinance will take effect January 1, requiring owners to register all rental properties, which then have to be inspected.

“What prompted that is some of the conditions we've seen when we do get calls from tenants and the housing situations we've seen, the dangerous situations, the dilapidated buildings,” Herlihy said.

Safety is the number one priority. In this case, four people were hospitalized, but many say it's a miracle no one was killed.

The city has scheduled an emergency council meeting for Monday to talk about the hazards left behind here and what to do with it all, that includes cost. The city has to foot the bill for demolishing these buildings and getting rid of the debris, they will try to recover some of that money from owners.

A GoFundMe page has been set up for the victims of this fire.

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