A fire broke out at 808 Ridge Drive in DeKalb on July 9 near 11 p.m. at an apartment complex owned by Hunter Properties. Police are investigating the incident as a case of arson. DeKalb City Manager Bill Nicklas calls it an "outrage" and says that it’s the worst incident he’s seen at a Hunter Property apartment in terms of number of injuries.
“Last night we put together some emergency housing. Hunter [Properties] had some empty apartments and people were invited to stay,” said Nicklas.
Nicklas, community members like Pastor Joseph Mitchell, and other city officials have said the building at 808 Ridge hasn’t been cared for and said management of Hunter Properties is partially at fault for what their tenants do.
Nicklas says desperate people do desperate things.
“I have it on good authority from my police department that if the management was more responsive and responsible in terms of what is expected under the law, the incidents at these properties would be reduced overnight,” he said Wednesday morning.
The city is working with American Red Cross and the DeKalb County Housing Authority in replacement efforts.
Six people were hospitalized and the entire building has been condemned, displacing 140 people.
At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, Fire Chief Jeff McMaster said he can’t confirm that all six people have been released from the hospital. McMaster also said initial damage estimates of the building was valued at $100,000, but could increase as the investigation continues.
Carolyn Morris is the alderperson for the 1st Ward in DeKalb. She said she visited the Ridge building Wednesday morning and talked to residents who jumped out of the windows of the complex to escape the flames. She said she talked to a mother who had to drop her baby out of a third story window to her husband below. “That’s not okay,” she said. “For a person to be put in a situation like that - that should never happen again.”
According to officials, the building was condemned because of an emergency fire inspection that found multiple fire hazards.
Nicklas says Hunter Properties will be responsible to clean damage.
Representatives from the affected property were present at the city’s press conference, but declined to comment to media.
Police Chief John Pertragallo says more details about the investigation will be released within the next day.