The city of Westbrook condemned an apartment building on Brackett Street for safety violations Thursday, leaving 23 people, including 12 children, homeless.

An inspection of the property at 158-160 Brackett St. by the city’s Fire Department found multiple safety code violations that officials say were potentially life-threatening.

Everyone who lived in the building was relocated to local hotels by the American Red Cross. City officials said the building’s electrical problems were so severe that it could take up to a month before repairs are completed and residents are allowed to return.

“The building is not habitable because of safety concerns and life-threatening issues,” City Administrator Jerre Bryant said late Thursday. “We usually work with a landlord on long-term corrections but under these types of circumstances we had to condemn the building immediately. In this situation, you can’t take the risk of waiting.”

The three-story building had only two working smoke detectors, there were structural deficiencies with the deck, entrances were blocked, and wiring had been chewed apart by animals and was exposed, said Fire Chief Andrew Turcotte. Inspectors also found evidence that circuits were overloaded.

The Fire Department had been contacted by a tenant concerning electrical service in one of the units, said Fire Inspector Mike Corey. The tenant reported that there was no electricity in a bedroom and bathroom and that power was provided to the rooms by stretching extension cords from rooms that had service.

“We did a full basement-to-attic inspection of the building,” Corey said.

A fire at a multi-unit building on Noyes Street in Portland last November killed six people. Inspectors found numerous safety code violations at that building, owned by Gregory Nisbet, and at another building Nisbet owned on Dartmouth Street in Portland. The fire has led to calls for more inspections and scrutiny of safety code compliance in Portland apartment buildings.

Code violations in the Westbrook building were similar to those at the Noyes Street property, Corey said. “The Portland fire was in our thoughts,” he said.

A family of five or six people lived on one side of the Westbrook building, Corey said. The inspection team determined that several people were living on the other side, but their relationship to one another was not clear.

Corey said his office notified the owners of the building before his team arrived at 1 p.m. to inspect it. The owners did not attend the inspection.

According to city tax records, the owners are Bruce and Christine Helper of Gorham, Corey said. However, an online phone search for the Helpers indicated that a Bruce and Christine Hepler live in Gorham. Corey said the city could have typed their last name incorrectly.

The landlords could not be reached Thursday night.

Turcotte said the landlord is scheduled to meet with the city inspection team Friday. The city will then try to work out a schedule for making repairs.

But repairs, especially to the electrical system, could take up to month, the chief said. No one will be allowed in the building until all violations have been corrected.

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