93 elderly and disabled displaced by fire - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

93 elderly and disabled displaced by fire

December 10, 2007

Albany-  Ninty-three people, most of them older and disabled, were homeless Monday night because of a fire.

They live at Hudson Malone Towers, where fire broke out around 11:00 a.m. The fire started on a stove on the 5th floor in room 517. Firefighters extinguished it quickly, but thick smoke enveloped the interior of the building. Thankfully, everyone got out of the building.

You can imagine the chaos, trying to make sure everyone was outside the building. Many of them need help getting around. Monday night, they won't be able to sleep in their own beds. Water damage to the building is keeping them out. The Red Cross is stepping in to help.

The fire department says, 50 rooms in the west wing, from the fifth floor to the first have water damage. There are electrical problems because of that water from the fourth floor down. Monday night, residents living there had hoped to be back in their apartments, sitting down to dinner. Now dinner is courtesy of the American Red Cross at the Council on Aging and it will likely be several days before they get to go home.

Hudson Malone resident Freddie Smith says it happened fast.

"I immediately got up, stopped what I was doing, and left the building," said Freddie Smith, A Hudson Malone resident.

Despite having a fourth floor apartment, he was one of the first people out. Smith quickly realized this wasn't a drill.

"When I got out and looked up that's when I really noticed the smoke," said Smith.

The fifth floor was unfit for both man and beast. Thick smoke drove one resident's cat onto the window ledge and forced fire fighters to go door to door to make sure everyone was out.

"It appears to be smoke and water damage is going to be the biggest issue," said Dan McCarthy, Albany Housing Authority Director.

A new piece of equipment called a stair chair on all Dougherty County EMS ambulances helped quickly evacuate 20 residents.

"We're able to put the patients in this chair and get them down the stairs. It's just so much easier than physically carrying someone down the stairs," said Bobby Tripp, Dougherty County EMS Director.

Six ambulances in the parking lot quickly attended to elderly residents experiencing problems. "We treated them with oxygen on the scene," said Tripp.

Using lists Albany Police quickly determined everyone was safely out of the building. For some it was a long wait outside, and while most hoped to get back in the building by late afternoon, those hopes were quickly dashed.

"I hope that I'll be back in my apartment, but I really don't know," said Smith.

Monday night, the Red Cross is putting up many residents who don't have family in the area at hotels. Those who do have family that could take them in are staying with those families.

The Albany Fire Department says it could be several days before the building checks out and residents are allowed back inside. Incidentally the resident's cat fell five stories when fire fighters tried to rescue the feline, but appeared to have survived the fall.

All but two of the apartments at Hudson Malone Towers were filled when Monday's fire started.

More information now on Hudson Malone Towers. The Albany Housing Authority built the facility in 1983.

The five story building has 95 units and caters to the elderly and disabled. It was named for Hudson Malone, Jr. the first Executive Director of the Albany Housing Authority.

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