Roach problem in South Side neighborhood made worse by fire

Local News

House has been a nuisance for years because of roaches, rodents spreading through neighborhood

Crews are battling a fire on Taft Ave. in Youngstown, Ohio

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — Neighbors on a south side street said bug spray was as much in demand as water late Sunday after a fire at a vacant house led to an exodus of cockroaches through the neighborhood.

The fire at a vacant home on W. Glenaven Ave. that broke out about 11:25 p.m. Sunday was the second in a week, but neighbors have seen an almost Biblical plague of roaches there for the past several years.

They say the roaches have drifted to the top of the block at W. Glenaven Avenue and Hillman Street and have even drifted over to neighboring West Evergreen Avenue.

Gloria Jenkins, who lives next door, has trash bags on her front porch filled with bottles of bug killer. At about $7 a pop, she said, she has spent well over $100 just this summer to keep her home free from roaches.

“It’s horrible,” she said.

Inside, she apologizes for the condition of the house, even though its immaculate, with hardwood floors and family pictures throughout. But also inside are several different types of bug spray, all to keep the roaches at bay.

Theresa Rosewood, who lives directly across the street, said the home has been vacant for about two weeks.

“When they moved out, that’s when the roaches started coming out,” Rosewood said.

Rosewood said there were several dogs and other animals in the home and whenever efforts were made to clean the home, everything was just dumped outside.

Rosewood said the roaches made it up to the top of the street.

“You know it’s bad when the roaches go up the street,” Rosewood said.

Rosewood said neighbors have called city officials constantly but nothing has been done.

“We need something done with this,” Rosewood said.

“We’ve asked more than once,” Jenkins added.

A fire department official said the house is expected to be torn down no later than Tuesday, but residents said they are concerned if the home is torn down the roach problem will be worse.

Michael Durkin, in charge of code enforcement for the city, said the house was cleaned earlier this year but within three weeks it was back to squalor. Durkin said the home will be torn down this week but crews will not be doing anything special because of the bugs.

Durkin said he wants the home gone because it is next to a day care center.

A search of property records show that the home is owned by a man in Burbank, California, Jacob T. Lyons. Durkin said Lyons just took over the house about three weeks ago.

Court records show the tenant in the home in April, when police were called because someone was dumping sewage in the street, was evicted from another home in the city in 2016 and a note in the case docket notes that the home was infested with fleas, feces and spoiled food and garbage.

There was no record of any citations for the current property owner in municipal court records, but Durkin said there was lots of action taken by the code enforcement office.

The home was severely damaged in Sunday’s fire. On Saturday, firefighters were there after someone set fire to some garbage on the front porch.

When police were called in April, the officer noted in his report that he could smell an odor from the home even though he was about two blocks away.

Rosewood said she has also had roaches in her home, as did Stephanie Bruton, who lives next door on the other side of Jenkins and runs the day care center.

Bruton said when firefighters arrived late Sunday, the street was filled with roaches and neighbors were outside spraying bug spray or pouring bleach on the ground to get rid of them.

Matthew Hylty, who lives next to Rosewood, also said the street was filled with roaches when the fire broke out.

“It was like a river streaming,” Hylty said.

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