Safety concerns arise after latest fire at Azalea Park Apartments

Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 6:26 PM EST
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - More families have displaced as a result of the second fire in less than two months at Azalea Park Apartments off Milledgeville Road.

Our I-Team found more than 200 code violations stacked up at Azalea Park over the past three years.

In recent years, fires have condemned four buildings over at Azalea Park. That’s including the two recent fires, including one Tuesday that displaced seven more families..

Property managers wouldn’t let us record the damage from the latest fire, but we did speak to a woman who described her experience living at the complex as “horrific.”

“It was just horrible, it was horrible, it was,” said Towana Lewis, a former Azalea Park resident.

Ride around Azalea Park and one thing will catch your eye: a recently damaged building, charred pieces out front and left-over caution tape hanging on.

However, if you look closer at other buildings, you can see the damage of the past.

“It was OK at first, but then I don’t know what happen,” said Lewis.

Lewis lived in Azalea Park for three years. She lived in Building M, and a week after she moved out, she told us the building was on fire.

“It’s just sad,” she said.

Code enforcement authorities say there have been six total buildings condemned at Azalea Park. Four of those were condemned because of fire-related issues.

“The complex hasn’t received good quality maintenance in a long time,” said Dennis Williams, Augusta Commission member representing District 2.

Right now, the business license is on probation, and the city has required management to make the repairs needed. The plan is to work on three units a month.

Williams says he’ll need to see a lot of improvement before they discuss taking the license off probation.

Lewis knows what it’s like to live in those violations all too well.

“It was uncalled for, for them to get the money, but nothing is being fixed. It wasn’t just me it was the whole complex,” said Lewis.

Williams said: “So, as we keep a watchful eye on until it comes to a point that we realize, or believe that they’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”

Staying safe

The latest fire comes on the heels of nine fire deaths in the CSRA in just a little over a month.

It also happened during a cold snap in what’s already one of the most dangerous times of near for residential fires, many of them sparked by efforts to stay warm.

“The No. 1 thing people can do right now is test and make sure they have a working smoke alarm inside their home,” said Augusta Fire Chief/EMA Director Antonio Burden. “There should be an alarm installed in every room where you have a loved one.”

Other safety steps people can take:

  • Make an escape plan and practice it with everyone who lives in the home.
  • If you’re cooking, never leave food unattended.
  • Know how to put out a grease fire if one flares up. A grease fire could be extinguished by sliding a cover over the pot or pan, turning off the heat source, and move the pot or pan away from the heat source with a protective glove.
  • Consider purchasing an ABC fire extinguisher.
  • Do not overload your power outlets. If you use a power strip, make sure there’s a UL-tested label on it.
  • Have your fireplace or wood stove chimney and chimney connectors inspected and cleaned at the start of the heating season.
  • Do not plug heating equipment into extension cords. This can lead to overheating of the cord, damage to the appliance, and increased risk of fire or electric shock.
  • Move anything that can burn (i.e., furniture, bedding, clothing) at least three feet from your heater, fireplace, or wood stove. Fifty-four percent of home heating fire deaths are caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn.
  • Keep your children and pets safely away from your portable or space heater.
  • Turn off your portable or space heater before leaving the room.
  • Never use your oven to heat your home.

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