BALTIMORE — For the first time since their joint memorial services, the loved ones of Lieutenants Kelsey Sadler and Paul Butrim are breaking their silence in emotional testimonies in City Council chambers Tuesday.
On January 24, the families of Lt. Sadler, Lt. Butrim and firefighter Kenny Lacayo changed forever.
"She was relentless dedicated and powerful, and today, I’m going to use her strength to ask you to please make the necessary changes to help protect the lives of the sworn personnel who protect the city every day," Lt. Sadler's sister testified.
As they remember their legacies, they're pushing for an urgent approach to reduced vacant properties across Baltimore.
"These vacant structures have created an increased danger to the public servants as well as the citizens the serve. They are death traps," Sadler's sister continued.
"January of 2022 is forever the day I lost my husband, my best friend," remembered Rachel Butrim, overwhelmed with emotion.
The families of the fallen firefighters recalled the same property that their loved ones died in as one that had problems before noting a fire back in 2015 that injured three other firefighters, and was condemned by the city as inhabitable.
"Nearly seven years later this is the property that took Kelsey, Kenny and Paul's life and drastically and irreparably altered so many more. Why did this property continue to stand for several years without being demolished," Sadler's sister questioned.
It's a question city administrator Christopher Shorter has been tasked by Mayor Scott to get to the bottom of.
He says they've been able to move the needle reducing more than 200 vacant properties across the city since then, but there's much more work to do.
"We’ll have to work with our court system. We’ll have to make sure we are properly notifying these homeowners, some of which do not live in Baltimore City that they have an obligation to move these homes to active productive use," Shorter shared.
Councilwoman Ramos proposed the judicial in-rem foreclosure process in her legislation.
"When the Liens unpaid taxes, I paid water bills, all of that get above the value of the property only for vacant properties the city can foreclose and then make available for disposition," said Ramos.
Elected officials like Councilman Robert Stokes called for a Blight Elimination Task Force where more citizens on the street level can weigh in after being appointed by council members along with the city administrator's office.
"We always come up with legislation here, but the community never have input. They’re the ones that must live next door to these vacant houses. We can raise fines all we want but Ms. Mary and Mr. Joe still lives next to these vacant houses," said Councilman Stokes.
As the hearings continue to be aimed at creating more productive progress, the urgency remains at the center.
"Council, I am anxiously awaiting the day that this issue is dealt with. I know for certain Paul would want to make sure this never happens again," Rachel Butrim expressed.