CUYAHOGA FALLS -- A Winter Parkway apartment fire that displaced about 120 people April 13 remains under investigation, officials say.
As of April 19, all of the residents of a Studio City apartment building had found temporary housing while work is done during the next several weeks to clean and repair the units in the building.
When those residents will be able to return is not known and will vary depending on the amount of damage to their apartment unit, according to city officials.
Four people were injured and transported to area hospitals as a result of the fire late in the evening on April 13.
Cuyahoga Falls Fire Chief Paul Moledor said the fire "started in the kitchen area possibly near the stove" in a first-floor unit, but noted the cause of the blaze is still under investigation.
Moledor on April 20 said the estimate on damage to the unit where the fire began is $80,000 to property and $10,000 to contents. An estimate on damages to the rest of the building is not yet available because insurance adjusters are traveling "room by room" through the 67-unit structure to determine what types of repairs and renovations are needed, said Moledor.
Mayor Don Walters said he's spoken with the apartment complex owner every day since the fire. Residents who live on the top two floors must remove their belongings by April 26. There are four units where people do not need to remove anything. Starting April 27, heavy cleaning will occur in most of the units, while some of the sites will also need new carpet and tile, and still others will need to have everything torn out and redone. Walters said the work should be done in about three to four weeks.
Meanwhile, residents who live on the first two floors will need to remove all of their belongings by the end of the month and the same cleaning and renovation process will occur as needed on those units. The mayor said there is no timeline on when this part of the effort would be complete.
Walters said he is working on locating volunteers to help residents move and store their items. He also noted that a few people have decided to move out and turned in their key. Walters added there are a few vacancies in other buildings at the complex and said a few elderly residents have been moved to those buildings.
Red Cross helped locate shelters for displaced residents
While nearly all residents were able to found alternative lodging shortly after the fire, there were five to six residents who were provided places to stay through efforts by the American Red Cross. DeWitt Elementary School served as a shelter from April 14 through April 16 and then the Riverfront YMCA sheltered the residents April 17 and 18, according to Jim McIntyre, communications and marketing manager for the Red Cross. The shelter at the YMCA was closed on the April 19 "after caseworkers were able to ensure that all residents in need of shelter had suitable alternative housing," stated a news release from the Red Cross.
McIntyre said anywhere from two to six Studio City residents used the shelters from April 14 through 18. School was not in session on April 14 and 17.
The Red Cross news release also noted the organization will continue to assist about 80 people affected by the fire, and its case workers are meeting with residents one-on-one to create recovery plans, navigate paperwork and locate help from other agencies.
More details on the fire
The fire originated in a ground-floor unit where a door was left open, which caused the blaze to "spread up and down the hallway," said Walters, who noted that unit is "totally gutted."
The mayor noted firefighters had to break down "a lot of doors" to evacuate people during the blaze.
"(The firefighters) did an amazing job," said Walters, adding fire officials "rescued a ton of pets."
He said there is also "substantial damage to the hallway" near the building's entrance and described the smoke damage as "intense."
At approximately 11:05 p.m. on April 13, the Cuyahoga Falls Fire Department responded to a report of heavy black smoke in the first floor hallway of one of the buildings at Studio City, 2299 Winter Parkway, according to a fire department report.
Initial crews arriving found heavy black smoke throughout the first floor extending up into the upper floors, the release said. Several residents were already outside when crews arrived, according to the fire department report. Firefighters found a "working fire" inside one of the ground-floor units that had spread into the hallway; the blaze was extinguished, the report said.
While firefighters battled the blazed, several residents were assisted out of the building via the stairwell as well as ground ladders.
Four people were treated and transported to area hospitals, including one firefighter. The firefighter was treated and released from the hospital, according to the fire department. Information was not available at press time on the condition of the three people. Several other people were treated and evaluated at the scene and released.
Several departments responded to assist Cuyahoga Falls with the incident including Akron, Stow, Tallmadge, Munroe Falls, Fairlawn, Hudson, Twinsburg and Richfield.