WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Shirley Carcia said her son saw the fire first.

A little before midnight on June 30, 2018, Carcia called 911 and said firefighters spent the whole night next door to her Warwick home trying to put it out.

Four years later, the fire-damaged house stands mostly unchanged from that night, despite complaints from neighbors and fines from the city of Warwick.

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Carcia said she expected repairs to take “maybe a month or two.”

“Maybe the most a year,” she said in an interview with Target 12. “But not four years. I mean, that’s just utterly ridiculous.”

She said on humid summer days, Carcia and her neighbors can still smell the charred wood from the house. And starting last summer, they started smelling mildew.

Carcia said it’s time for city leaders to act.

“Put the foot down and say, let’s get this done,” Carcia said. “Knock it down and send the bill to whomever they need to send it to.”

As of August 2021, Matt Tonning and his brother own the house. That’s when they bought the home at auction after other buyers backed out.

Lucille Dean, coordinator of Warwick’s division of property maintenance, said prior to Tonning buying the house in 2021, “The city couldn’t force the bank to act because the mortgage was still held by the previous owners, who couldn’t be found.”

Target 12 obtained documents showing that Warwick issued violations on the property for “unsafe conditions due to fire” and “rubbish to include but not limited to mattresses, furniture, papers, boxes, etc.”

Tonning inherited those fines when he purchased the property, with a total cost of more than $1,200.

Tonning said he quickly paid the fines and had the house cleared out.

“Anything that could be painful with this project has been,” Tonning said. “I feel their pain — I’ve spoken with the neighbors, they’re all wonderful people, I can’t imagine staring at that for the last four years.”

Tonning told Target 12 that if things go smoothly, neighbors could see a significant improvement within two to four months. But he added that because the house is in a flood zone, FEMA regulations are slowing down the rebuilding process. Those regulations could force him to elevate and replace the foundation, he said.

Warwick Mayor Frank Picozzi declined to comment.

City Councilman Vinny Gebhart, D-Ward 9, has been working with neighbors to get answers, and he said he’s encouraged by the new owner’s progress.

Gebhart said while the council’s power is limited right now, that may need to change. Watching the house sit for four years, he said, convinced him the council needs to change its ordinances to set a deadline for when the city can take over.

“I would like to remain hopeful that the property is moving in the right direction,” Gebhart said.

Tolly Taylor (ttaylor@wpri.com) is a Target 12 investigative reporter for 12 News. Connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook