Apartment residents return home after deadly fire left them displaced

Published: Oct. 6, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Two weeks after an apartment fire killed one person and left nearly 100 residents displaced, some of those residents got to return home Thursday.

Almost all the Stratford Village Apartment residents returned Thursday afternoon after living in hotels or with family for two weeks. However, there are a few apartments still covered in smoke on the first floor, and residents may not be able to go back until November.

The apartment’s owner and residents explained how they’ve been dealing with the damage since the fatal fire happened two weeks ago.

”It’s overwhelming and stressful,” resident Kyler Himmelbrand said. “I haven’t really been able to do much schoolwork, I’m starting to get caught up on all my schoolwork because I’m about two weeks behind because of the whole situation.”

“I’m alright, just trying to hang in there,” resident Ronald Lewis said.

On the first floor where the fire started, property manager William Alexander Fekas explained how the repair costs keep adding up.

“Oh, it’s stressful,” Fekas said. “The insurance doesn’t pay us up front for any of this stuff. I had to go to my father’s pockets for this and he’s put up $50,000 of his own money so we could get all the doors and the locks and everything already here.”

All the residents receive government renters’ assistance through HUD. Fekas explained that’s making it difficult to give residents pro-rated rent for being displaced.

“I have to get permission from HUD to do certain things, and they’re not responding to me,” Fekas said.

Roanoke Fire-EMS ruled the fatal incident as accidental from smoking materials not being thrown away properly.

“We’re trying to make it all right as best we can, but I don’t have enough housing for everybody,” Fekas said. “Some of them are pretty much opting to stay in their units while we do the rehab. They’ll have to endure the smell while they go into the deodorization and tearing down all the walls.”

After a stressful two weeks, residents are glad they can return home.

“Everybody is happy they can come back home,” Lewis said.

Fekas said he’s trying to work with HUD to get residents up to $1,000 to help cover some of the displacement costs. Roanoke Fire Department inspected the building and determined it is safe for residents to return. Officials are estimating the damage costs to be $160,000.