QUESTION: How can unoccupied homes be condemned and torn down? Our older neighborhood has empty houses “tied up in estates,” with multiple heirs all over the country who don’t seem to care if the houses rot or burn down. They’re eyesores in our otherwise nice neighborhood, and possibly dangerous eyesores. We’ve been told it’s virtually impossible to get a house condemned, but do we have to wait until these places become crack houses and/or catch on fire before we can get rid of them?

ANSWER: Justin Dupuy, Baton Rouge’s code enforcement manager, says there is a legal process the city must go through before a home can be condemned.

It’s a procedure that requires Metro Council approval.

“It is definitely not impossible to condemn a house,” Dupuy says. “If you look at any of the council agendas you’ll notice we condemn 5-20 a month.

“If the reader would like to give me the locations of these houses, I can certainly check if we either have any in our system or we need to create new work orders to begin the process.

“There is certainly a lengthy process involved, but we can definitely get started.”

You can reach Dupuy at (225) 389-8680 or by email at

Beautiful hazard

QUESTION: Are lighted sky lanterns a fire hazard? Are they banned in Louisiana?

ANSWER: Yes to both questions, the state Fire Marshal’s Office says.

The growing popularity of Kongming Lanterns, or sky lanterns, as they are most commonly known, is a hazard.

“Despite the beautiful glow they emit as they gracefully ascend upward, sky lanterns, which basically operate as miniature hot air balloons, hold horrific potential of great devastation,” the agency says in a news release.

Constructed of very thin rice paper or a thin paper membrane, the lanterns, which were first used in 3rd century China, are propelled skyward as an open flamed fuel source heats the air inside, changing its density and making it lighter.

Once aloft, the lanterns can travel for miles, and because they are guided by the wind, users have no control on where they land — which is why more than two dozen states, a number of countries and many municipalities have either banned them or restricted their use, the Fire Marshal’s Office says.

As a result of the increasing popularity of sky lanterns and the potential increase of destructive fires relating to their use, the National Association of State Fire Marshals passed a resolution in 2013 encouraging a nationwide ban of the lanterns.

The Louisiana State Fire Marshal responded by ordering a ban on the distribution, sale and use of sky lanterns in the state.

Got a question?

Send your questions to Ask The Advocate, 7290 Bluebonnet Blvd., Baton Rouge, LA 70810; or fax to Ask The Advocate, (225) 388-0371; or email