The Woodward News

Local News

April 3, 2014

Weekend fire has tenants looking for places to live

Fire’s cause is still being determined

Another apartment fire in Woodward at Woodridge West over the weekend has displaced seven tenants from their homes and now, after their last day of support from Red Cross, they are left without a place to live.

The Sunday evening blaze gutted two apartments on the bottom floor of the complex's B units and five others in the same building are unlivable because of smoke damage. The power is also still cut to the units, said Woodridge site manager Brandy Clay.

"I have two who have lost everything and have no renters insurance and no place to go," Clay said. "Five other tenants lost all their food because the power is out and the code enforcement guy said they could not go back into those apartments yet."

Woodward Police Chief, Steve Day said the cause of the blaze is not yet known.

"That's about all I can say, other than the fact that there is a need to investigate further," he said.

Wednesday afternoon, most of the displaced residents were still trying to sift through what little may be salvageable from the fire and helping Clay board up the dwellings to protect them from further damage.

As the afternoon sun grew warmer, Clay said she planned on moving all the file cabinets to a place where she could secure them and allowing the tenants to stay in the office with cots if that is what it came to.

However, after spending the last three days attempting to find some relief for her tenants and a place for them to stay, she said her area manager called her and told her she was not permitted to help her tenants any further.

"She told me that they should have had renters insurance and that we can't help them because of the liability issues and that if I did help them I would be fired."

For their part, the management company officials of Southridge Apartments, LLC., of Kingfisher who are the owners of Woodridge West LLC., have indicated they have turned the claim into their property insurance company, but that only covers the structure.

"When they apply, in all of our paperwork, we strongly suggest that each tenant purchase a policy," said Woodridge owner Dana Holt.

Holt noted that she feels bad for the residents but other than trying to create space for them in other vacant units on the property or on nearby apartment properties also owned by the company, she cannot help them further.

Some residents said they had been told they would have to pay rent, since rent is paid one month in advance on the 1st of the month.

"I can't live in my apartment so why would I pay rent there," Johnny Lanman said.

When asked that question, Holt said if someone in authority deemed the apartments unlivable, they would "do the best they could to help them out."

However, she stopped short at saying rent would not be charged on apartments, even if they were unlivable.

She noted her inability to answer the question with a direct "yes" or "no" was a result of the fact that the property is a part of the Rural Development 515 Program and she had to find out their regulations regarding the issue.

"My heart breaks for anyone who loses their home," Holt said. "We own a project at Mooreland, called Canadian Valley and Buffalo Valley in Buffalo. So if we have any available units there we will offer then to the displaced tenants first."

Clay manages all three properties, she said.

"Well, we have units in Mooreland but the tenants trashed them when they left and the management hasn't given me the go ahead to get crews out there to fix those yet so they are not ready," Clay said.

So, for all the complications in this case, at the end of Wednesday, there were still seven tenants who were homeless including four children, Clay said.

However, as local people became aware, Clay said many have stepped up to begin to try and unravel the problems and help her displaced tenants including the Ministerial Alliance, The Red Cross, the Briarwood property manager, Briarwood tenants, and others have offered help, Clay said.

"Leila Spray from W.O.O.F Pet Rescue has just been great," Clay said. "She has been helping set up a bank account for the victims of the fire and She has churches coming and donating clothes. She is raising money to put the people up and house them.

For more information about how to help, you can reach Brandy Clay at 216-4887.

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