Owner of Bowdoin Street home had previous property condemned that also caught fire

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The homeowner of the Bowdoin Street property that burned down over the weekend, owned another nearby home that had also been condemned and later caught fire, the Target 12 Investigators have learned.

According to city tax records, Dexter Jackson – the owner of 110 Bowdoin Street – purchased 708 Atwells Ave. in March of last year. Two months later, city building officials condemned the two-family home because it lacked heat, electricity and was deemed “unfit for human occupancy.”

Jackson’s property at 110 Bowdoin was also recommended for condemnation in 2015 and again three days before Saturday’s fire.

According to city land records, 708 Atwells was placed into receivership on Oct. 2 because Jackson failed to make the necessary repairs on the home. About three weeks later – on Oct. 25 – the Atwells Ave. home caught fire, triggering a two-alarm response by the fire department.

Providence Fire Captain Peter McMichael said they have not officially determined a cause for the fire and it is “still an active and open investigation.”

Photo Courtesy: Providence Canteen

“There was no electricity to the house,” McMichael said. “We did have signs of vagrants being in there using the house for various purposes.”

Ted Kresse, a spokesperson for National Grid, said the utility shut off natural gas to the property in 2013 and it had never been restored.

Victor Morente, a spokesperson for Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, said Jackson objected to the appointment of a receiver and the court gave him time to come up with a plan to repair the property.

“After several extensions, Mr. Jackson finally submitted a proposed plan which was found to be unacceptable,” Morente said in an email. “The court denied his objection and appointed a permanent receiver.”

Morente said they believe the receiver is soliciting bids and applying for funds to demolish the property.

The building official who visited the 110 Bowdoin Street prior to the fire, found tenants using space heaters because the house lacked heat. In a report he called the property “a mess” and recommended it be condemned.

Kresse said records show gas had been shut off to that property in September, but could not say why the utility took the action.

Target 12 was unable to reach Jackson for comment – his phone number went to voicemail which was full. But when questioned about the 2015 condemnation on the Bowdoin Street property, he asked a reporter “what does that have to do with the fire?”

On Saturday firefighters responded to a blaze they say started at 110 Bowdoin Street and quickly spread to surrounding buildings. The body of 49-year-old Lucy Feliciano was removed from the rubble on Monday, but an official cause of death has not been released.

The cause of the fire has also not been determined.

Tim White (twhite@wpri.com) is the Target 12 investigative reporter and host of Newsmakers for WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook