XENIA, Ohio (WDTN) - Two months ago a fire forced 60 people out of their homes in Xenia. The fire started in a unit at the Walter G. Sellers apartment building and fire investigators still don't know what caused it, but that's not the only unfinished business.
Tenants are not allowed to return to their apartments because of safety concerns.
Deborah Johnson told 2 NEWS On Assignment, "They told me I'd be in before Christmas. That didn't happen."
Johnson has been living with her sister since the November fire that forced her out of Walter G. Sellers apartments. Nonetheless, she's paid rent for two months and is expected by the manager to pay for January as well.
"You try paying for a place that you can't stay in. And the place you're staying in, you want to contribute to that even if it's family," exclaimed Johnson.
The owner of the apartments, Wallick, says it's using the federal subsidy from HUD that normally helps tenants with their rent on hotel rooms for the people who have no where else to go. Johnson says she's getting nothing.
Xenia Fire Chief Kenneth Riggsby doesn't know what's going on with the rent, but he knows it's not safe for people to be living in the building.
" Well they can't live in it. The safety issue is the fire alarm system with it being a handicapped building you know we have to have that safety. Is there no sprinkler system in this building? That's our only avenue of safety in this building," Chief Riggsby said.
He said the fire started on the third floor in a corner in the back of the building, but he still doesn't know what sparked it and he thinks we may never know due to all the damage in that unit.
He added, "Had that fire been on the second floor, first floor, in a center apartment I truly believe we may have lost lives in this fire."
Chief Riggsby said he asked Wallick to install a sprinkler system due to the fact that most tenants are seniors or they struggle with disabilities, but because of the age of the building it's not a requirement.
"There are some HUD guidelines and according to the HUD representative it's next to impossible to get it done at this time," said Riggsby.
Johnson told 2 NEWS On Assignment, "This is a strain and stress and everything. How many months is it going to be? And they're not telling us anything."
Late Friday Wallick admitted that staff members aren't all on the same page. Some are charging rent and some aren't. The company's spokesperson said she plans to seek clear direction from HUD.
As far as the building an inspection should take place by the end of next week. With approval 25 people would be allowed to return to their apartments while work continues to make the rest of the building safe.
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