Driving around Massachusetts over the years, every once in awhile I would come across a home or a building that looked dilapidated or at least vacant that displayed a red on white "X" or a white on red "X", and I never understood what that meant.

I just assumed that it signified that the building was soon to be demolished by what ever city it was in due to its condition. That is incorrect, however.

Bourne Firefighters Facebook
Bourne Firefighters Facebook

In actuality, it means that it has been deemed unsafe for first responders.

What is the new red “X” sign that has shown up on a few buildings in town? Let’s start with explaining what the sign does not mean. The fire department has not condemned any buildings in town. X does not mark the spot indicating that a building will be demolished. A red X does not mean that the building is in immediate danger of collapse. Also, a building with an X on it does not indicate that an owner has not paid their taxes, nor does it mean that the property is not insured.
The X signs are part of a process to ensure the safety of the public and first responders. They are placed on buildings because they have been identified as being unsafe. -Bourne Firefighters Facebook

I also had a chance to speak with Pittsfield Fire Deputy Chief Neil Myers who also referenced the fact that the cold storage building fire in Worcester, MA in December of '99 was a vacant building.

He believed that the building was marked; however, there was word that there were two homeless people inside, so they sent guys in to search. Six firefighters perished in that blaze. "That's why we use those Red X's, so we don't lose firefighters."

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