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Apartment fire at building subject of city lawsuit

Mother, 3 children live at home where fire occurred

MIAMI – Authorities are investigating after a fire broke out at an apartment complex in the city of Miami.

The fire was reported about 11 a.m. Friday at 1710 Northwest First Court.

Local 10 News was at the scene as residents were evacuated. The front door of an apartment unit on the second floor was charred.

Authorities said the fire is under investigation, but Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez previously investigated the owner of the building, who racked up code violations for the building.

In October, the city filed a lawsuit against the six companies that at that time owned the nine properties in an effort to collect more than $2.4 million in unpaid fines.

In that lawsuit, the city claimed the company that owns 1710 Northwest First Court owed more than half a million dollars in "pending and recorded liens."

The suit also stated that the building was in "a state of severe disrepair" and that "necessary fire suppression equipment is non-existent.

A boy who lives in the apartment said he saw smoke and sparks coming from a cord in the living room and said his mother threw water on it to try to stop the fire.

The woman was treated for minor injuries at the scene and no other injuries were reported.

Authorities said the woman lives at the apartment with her three children.

According to court documents, the building is currently in receivership.

According to the city's lawsuit, the building's violations "threaten the health, safety and welfare of the community."

State records show Denise Vaknin of New Jersey owns all the companies that own the nine buildings subject of the suit.

Gil Cohen told Local 10 News that he was hired by Vaknin's husband Abraham "about two months ago" to begin fixing things around the buildings.

During a court hearing, a Miami-Dade County judge told Vaknin's attorney that the changes were coming "too little too late."

The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office released the following statement Friday: "We have already been in contact with city of Miami and are awaiting the report from the Fire Department regarding the fire at 1710 NW First Court. Upon receipt, we will review it and take any appropriate action that may be warranted."

Online commercial real estate records show the property is currently up for sale with an asking price of $1,000,000.

With the property currently under receivership, Vazquez asked former state and federal prosecutor David Weinstein if the company that owns the building would be able to sell it. He said the short answer is no, "not without prior approval of the court per paragraph 25(e) of the Order Appointing the Receiver."

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The American Red Cross is assisting the family whose home was severely damaged by the fire and other neighbors who suffered water damage.

READ: "Left to Rot" Call Christina investigation:

PART 1: Miami residents living 'like we are dogs' say landlord doing nothing to help

PART 2: Landlords of Miami residents living in 'slums' deny owning properties

PART 3: Law seems to protect landlords of Miami residents living in 'slum conditions'

PART 4: Tenants of dilapidated apartment file lawsuit against 'slumlord millionaire'

PART 5: Officials: Apartments in deplorable conditions a "city-wide" problem

PART 6: City officials move closer to improving Liberty City tenants quality of life

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