SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - Pastor BJ Simms of Kingdom Culture Worship Center was one of a handful of pastors who went into what was to become a red-tag building to try to talk people out room by room floor by floor.
In a story only on FOX11 Simms told us, "We put ourselves in harms way to make sure to make sure it's easy to get out of the building."
The main message?
"Nothing we can do right now can help you stay another day," Simms said.
That's because the city issued a vacate order because, as they saw it, the building was potentially a fire trap.
San Bernardino City spokesman Jeff Kraus and fire officials told us the fire suppression system in the structure didn't work. There were exposed wires.
We saw that in our first visit last year.
Firefighters had to put on rubber boots because there was water in the basement and the possibility of mold and mosquitoes.
And, as they get people out... the city turned its attention to the owner. Said Kraus, "The council met in closed session about next steps for legal action against the owner."
Kraus says not only is there is a restraining order against the owner, but court orders with regard to repairs he hasn't followed. On Wednesday, the building’s owner told us that even though the city didn’t think he was doing anything to improve the building, despite the restraining order and instructions from the court to make improvements that he spent a lot of money.
He's been there as recent as just the other day. He sounded like somebody who was being proactive.
"If he's put money into the building the city hasn't seen, the code enforcement officers... the fire department, the building officials have not seen money at all put into this building," Kraus said.
As Thursday marked the final day to vacate by order of the city, it turned out to be the day the community came together.
Pastors went in at 7 a.m. door to door, but it wasn't a cake walk. Sims said there was push back. He said there were some people who didn’t want to leave because it was their home.
But after the pastors made their appeal, some left. Others, thought, resisted.
Local nonprofit activist Robin "Malibu" McKinney, with Knock it off and ForGive, wanted to see if the city could help with money cards for people who didn't qualify for hotel vouchers.
Fast forward to today, success!
"At the last minute we were able to get about $5,000 plus in gift cards to give out," McKinney said.
She says that helped encourage people out. And, after the place was cleared floor by floor the building was red tagged.
By, 1 p.m. it was over.
"Nobody had to be forcibly removed. Everybody left voluntarily," Kraus said.
To everyone involved the day was a success!