More than 60 people, many of them elderly, have been vacated from the Emerson Manor Apartments in downtown Hoquiam after high levels of bacteria were found in runoff water from a sprinkler system that put out a fire in the building last week.
The residents were told Monday afternoon that they would have to leave and given a short amount of time to collect valuables and necessary clothing before being taken to Immanuel Baptist Church in Hoquiam for the evening.
On Thursday a fire in a fifth floor room was put out by the sprinkler system and there were no injuries. The fire started about 10:30 a.m. but at noon, the sprinkler system was still going and residents had to wait in the lobby as firefighters worked to shut the system down.
There was extensive water damage. Water samples came back on Monday and bacteria levels were excessively high, said Chuck Wallace, Deputy Director of Grays Harbor County Emergency Management.
Many tenants were separated from their pets when they had to vacate their homes. The pets were taken to local animal shelters and adoption homes until things can be sorted out.
The Department of Social &Health Services, the Red Cross, Grays Harbor Community Hospital, Grays Harbor County Public Health and numerous local and regional agencies have been helping the residents.
The Emerson Manor tenants are mainly low income, senior citizen residents. Many have disabilities. Wallace pointed out that they may be required to leave their personal belongings and furniture for an extended period of time and said some are lucky enough to have family and friends to assist and stay with during the building rehabilitation, but most have nowhere else to turn. They left their home with literally the shirts on their back and little else, he said.
And the majority of tenants have no insurance covering them for an event such as this. They have no assistance to help purchase new clothing, furniture and appliances lost due to the water damage. Anchor Bank, also displaced due to the fire, has set up a fund to assist the residents of the Emerson Manor Apartments called the Emerson Manor Assistance Fund. Anchor Bank locations throughout Grays Harbor County will accept monetary donations for the displaced Emerson Manor Apartment tenants. Only monetary donations will be accepted for this incident, because each tenant requiring assistance has specific needs.