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PHOENIX — Along a quiet stretch of Rose Street across from Phoenix Elementary School, a house at 210 N. Rose has become an eyesore, a safety concern and a makeshift hotel for feral cats.

Burned in a two-alarm fire March 6, 2003, the house was featured in the Mail Tribune when then-owner Rachel Brannon, who had lived in the home for 51 of her 65 years, was found camping in the backyard.

Living in a small tent with her partner, 68-year-old Ron Mackey, three dogs and two dozen of her 30 cats that survived the fire, Brannon had no place to go and was reluctant to leave her pets.

City officials evicted Brannon from the property a year later because of safety concerns and now say the house must be demolished.

Daniel Standley and Ronald Brannon were deeded the house by Brannon sometime after 2004.

The city's contract building official, Pat DeBenedetti, told City Council members last week that attempts to locate Rachel Brannon and the current owners had been unsuccessful and that the house had become extremely dangerous to neighbors and children attending the nearby school.

An estranged daughter in Arizona told DeBenedetti that Brannon might be in a rest home in Medford.

DeBenedetti said this week that the city's focus now is to legally declare the house a dangerous building and take necessary steps to gain authority to clean up the site.

"We have to give them an opportunity to clean it up before we can do anything," DeBenedetti said.

"But if they don't, or aren't going to, then basically we have the right to go on without their permission and demolish the place and clean things up."

Built in 1930, the 1,166-square-foot home was wood-heated and uninsured at the time of the fire. It has been listed in various phases of remodel since the 1970s, according to county records.

Now it sits surrounded by debris and overgrown brush. Feral cats come and go. An old car is leaning against the front of the house with an appliance resting on the hood.

Second Street neighbor Victoria Villarreal said she would breathe a sigh of relief if city officials ordered the house taken down.

Villarreal moved in just after the fire occurred and faced regular bouts with stray cats, rodents and transients attracted to the house.

A dog living with a "camper" on the property cost Villarreal a $5,000 vet bill for her own dog. Villarreal said she came home more than once to people passed out on her lawn.

"The city has told me for a couple of years now they were going to tear it down. There are a whole bunch of cats living in there. It's a horrible, horrible place," she said.

"I've had this hedge between my house and theirs and for the last year it's been dying, so now I can see the house from my backyard. It's just awful."

City Attorney Kurt Knudsen said the city would make additional attempts to contact current owners before demolition.

If demolition is necessary, and owners don't come forward, the city will lien the property for costs estimated at around $10,000.

The house was put into foreclosure with Jackson County in September for unpaid taxes from 2005.

Villarreal said demolishing the house would benefit neighbors and the children who walk by on school days.

"It's so bad that you can't even get near the house because it smells so bad, and the flies are unbelievable," she said.

"I can't imagine how long it will take before they tear it down, but it would be wonderful if they finally did. It brings the whole neighborhood down and it's really unsafe."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.

Neighbors say the garbage piled in the backyard attracts rodents and flies. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune photo - Bob Pennell