Residents displaced by a fire at a West Yakima Avenue apartment building last week won’t be moving back in anytime soon.
The Savoy Apartments, 322 W. Yakima Ave., have been declared a dangerous building due to electricity being cut as a result of the fire, as well as fire damage and an initial report of asbestos being released from the attic during the fire, Yakima city code enforcement manager and fire marshal Joe Caruso said.
The building could be reoccupied, but that will depend on how soon owner Aaron Stewart can make repairs.
“It is on the timeline of the owner,” Caruso said.
Contacted Friday, Stewart said he is still waiting for the city to release the building, which Caruso said has already happened.
The Yakima Fire Department is continuing its investigation into the fire’s cause, but Caruso said the building had been turned back over to Stewart earlier this week.
An Oct. 28 fire at the 39-unit apartment complex displaced 41 residents. While the fire was contained to a single apartment, there was extensive smoke damage throughout the third floor. Caruso said utility crews cut off electricity to the building for safety reasons.
Insulation from the attic was released when the apartment was gutted, creating a potential for asbestos exposure, Caruso said. Initial air testing found asbestos in the air was considered within allowable levels, but Caruso said the building cannot be considered fully safe until Stewart’s inspectors confirm the results.
Stewart, a Tacoma businessman who also owns the Cascade and Senator apartments immediately south of Staff Sgt, Pendleton Way between Front and North First streets, disputed Caruso’s declaration that the building was “dangerous.”
“It will be back to its status as a sound, wonderful building,” Stewart said.
The displaced residents were initially put up in local motels by Stewart until Monday night, after which the American Red Cross established an emergency shelter at Summitview Church of Christ, 100 N. 72nd Ave.
The shelter is expected to close early next week, as the Red Cross helps people find other places to live, said Peggy Hoggarth, executive director of the Yakima Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Fourteen people used the emergency shelter Thursday night, Hoggarth said.
Along with finding a place to live, at least one former tenant said he’s concerned about getting back the money he paid for a deposit and rent.
An attorney representing Savoy resident Brian Keithbrackeen said his client had only recently moved into the apartment and put down a deposit and paid first and last month’s rent, and is waiting to get his money back. He’s been told it is coming through UPS, attorney Dan Fiorito said, but nobody had tracking information on them.
Fiorito said getting back as much as $800 could help some of the residents find another place to live.
A man who would only identify himself as the assistant manager for Stewart’s properties said the requests for refunds were sent to Stewart for approval.
Stewart said he was not handling the disbursements, but was letting the property manager in Yakima take care of returning November’s rent money.
“There are a lot of things going back and forth, and there’s a bit of miscommunication,” Stewart said.
He also said the “deposit” was actually a non-refundable cleaning fee that was not going to be paid back even though there was a fire.