Mar 25, 2014 12:56 AM by Maddie Garrett

Residents Frustrated After Apartment Fire Locks Them Out

More than 100 people still out of their homes and looking for answers following last week's 3-alarm fire at the Devonshire Square Apartment complex. On top of the fire damage, New 5 has learned asbestos is plaguing the apartments. The entire apartment complex is locked up and evacuated for an undetermined amount of time.

Many residents gathered at the apartments Monday afternoon, in hopes of getting a chance to go inside for a few hours to retrieve some belongings. Some were let in, other people turned away because their buildings were still boarded up.

"They're not telling us very much," said Tiffany Jones. "None of the residents here know anything."

The apartment complex has set up a voicemail recording people can call to get updates throughout the day. But residents said it's not enough information, and they're frustrated and angry it's taking so long to get information and to get back into their apartments.

"It's a mental roller coaster, I have missed work, my kids have missed school and enough is enough they need to do something," said Sherry Rundles.

Joann Steadman said managers told her she would be allowed in to move out her belongings, but then when she showed up a few hours later she was told she couldn't get in. She said she's not being told when she'll be allowed back in or what the issues are.

"I understand you can't release information but you can give a little more," said Steadman.

At first, News 5 was turned away when we asked to talk to managers. Security guards said only residents were allowed on the property. But later News 5 went back and talked with managers off camera.

They said they're doing everything they can to help the residents, and that some parts of the complex are still closed off because state agencies haven't cleared them. They also said utilities are turned off and can't be turned back on yet.

"But I do respect that people got to be safe," said displaced resident Jones.

Part of the problem is asbestos contamination after the fire. The State's Air Pollution Control Department confirmed that asbestos was released, which is common for older buildings. The State said a licensed company has been hired by the apartments to clean it up.

"We personally haven't been in the loop like that. All we know is what Melanie puts out on the voice-mail," said Jones of the information.

Jones was one of the residents who lives on the opposite end from the fire. She was grateful to be allowed back in for a few hours Monday.

"I grabbed as many clothes as I could find, shoes, and personal items, toiletries and stuff like that," said Jones.

But others, like Steadman, were turned away. She was hoping to have her insurance company move her out Monday. She wants to leave the apartment complex for good. Now she might have to wait several more weeks.

Off camera, complex managers said they're updating a website more frequently, and trying to call all of the residents and open up the lines of communication with them. But even they said they don't know when the apartments will re-open.

Asbestos clean up can take anywhere from several days to several weeks. There's also fire and smoke damage to take care of, as well as damages from the firefighting efforts including doors that were knocked down.

The Red Cross has been helping the residents find places to stay, get clothing and other essential items.



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