Zach Darwin’s kitchen window faces the charred, burned-out shell of a building at 20-24 Noyes St. in Portland, where a fast-moving fire on Nov. 1 killed six young adults.

The 29-year-old is constantly reminded of that tragic day, when several of his next-door neighbors were killed and he and his girlfriend were awakened by firefighters and forced into the street wearing only their pajamas. Darwin said the heat from the fire was so strong, it cracked their storm windows and melted the plastic blinds inside their apartment.

“I look at this (wreckage) every day when I’m washing dishes and cooking,” Darwin said. “It hurts to see this every day. My girlfriend and I are moving out.”

With the cause and circumstances of the fire still under investigation and the legal battles over who is responsible just beginning, it is likely that the building could remain in its current condition for months, if not years. The building has not been declared unsafe or ordered to be demolished, and attorneys for the family of one of the victims have asked that it be preserved to protect evidence for civil damage claims.

The burned building stands in stark contrast to the neighborhood of neatly arranged houses.

On Friday, a layer of ice was melting from the portions of the roof that were still intact. Plastic flowers and a wreath decorated a 4-foot-high chain-link fence with yellow caution tape still attached. The porch roof was stabilized by three new wooden braces, and portions of the roof and gutters dangled high above the ground.

Nearby was a string of prayer flags tied between a traffic sign and a tree. Other mementos, such as beer and whiskey bottles and vases of flowers, sat on the ground encrusted in snow and ice.

A pumpkin, partially glazed in ice, bore hand-written messages to the victims of the fire. “Ashley, mommy loves you always,” one note says.

People who live and work in the area are wondering how long the building will remain as a painful reminder of the lives that were lost.

Michael Beling, 28, of Cape Elizabeth, works at Starbird Music, located on the corner of Noyes Street and Forest Avenue. He often takes walks on his lunch break and can’t help but think of the people who died there.

“It’s definitely an ominous presence sitting there,” said Beling, who speculated the house is “very traumatizing” for nearby residents. “I feel it should be torn down once the investigation is done.”

The city has said the investigation will look into whether the landlord, Gregory Nisbet, broke any city codes and, if so, whether any criminal charges are warranted.

The widow of one of the victims, Steven Summers, has already filed a civil lawsuit against Nisbet, a real estate agent who lives up the street from the burned building. On Tuesday, a Superior Court judge froze $1.7 million in real estate assets owned by Nisbet to help pay for any future damages.

Meanwhile, an attorney for another victim, David Bragdon Jr., has asked the city, state fire marshal and Nisbet to preserve the building in its current condition, so it can be evaluated by the firm’s own experts. The letter also was sent to Bank of America, which is in the process of foreclosing on the house because Nisbet has stopped paying the mortgage.

“Please do not demolish, alter, discard, remove or destroy any portion of that building or its contents until such an inspection can be conducted,” attorney Steven Silin wrote in a Dec. 2 letter. “Failure to preserve the building and its contents as requested may result in a legal interference being entered against you in any subsequent litigation.”

City Hall spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said the building was turned back over to Nisbet on Nov. 5 after it was deemed structurally safe by the city’s fire and code enforcement officials.

But with snow and rain now falling through a large hole in the roof and no windows on the upper floors, it’s unclear how long it will remain structurally sound.

There have been cases in the past where burned-out buildings have sat untouched for years, and it can take time even when the landlords are eager to fix them, said Tammy Munson, director of the city’s Inspections Division.

One case involved a fire at 15 Walton St., a three-unit building that sustained an estimated $100,000 in damage from a fire in March 2011.

Munson said the building was initially deemed structurally safe, but the owner faced significant delays with his insurance company, causing the building’s condition to deteriorate.

Once the Walton Street building was deemed unsafe, the city hired a contractor to demolish it and billed the owner for the cost, Munson said. Grondin said the building was demolished in April 2013, two years after the fire. The city recouped the $18,000 expense in August 2013.

The future of the Noyes Street house may be further complicated by the bank’s foreclosure action.

Sam Sharry, a Portland attorney who handles foreclosures and serves on the board of the Southern Maine Landlord Association, said that generally when a house is in foreclosure, the insurance settlement typically goes toward paying off the mortgage. Depending on the payout, the landlord may or may not have money left over to renovate or demolish the building, Sharry said.

Darwin, who lives next door to 20-24 Noyes St., just shook his head when he was told the building was deemed safe and would not be immediately demolished. He said people – mostly young kids – have been hopping the fence at night and rummaging around in the wreckage for mementos.

On Friday, an empty 16-ounce can of Pabst Blue Ribbon and a 22-ounce bottle of Bitches Brew beer were left on the railing of the charred porch.

“It doesn’t look safe,” Darwin said.

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