Days Inn Residents Evacuated After Problems With Fire Alarms
Updated 5:13 p.m.
Charlotte Fire Department officials evacuated a Charlotte Days Inn on Monday night after determining that the alarm system wasn't working. It's the same hotel where long-term residents have been battling the hotel's owners, who have been trying to shut the hotel down.
Lawyer Isaac Sturgill with Legal Aid of North Carolina represents some of the hotel's residents. He said fire officials told him they gave the owner the option of having a staff member monitor the hotel until the alarm system could be fixed.
"The owner decided that rather than provide a security officer to do the fire walk and to monitor the hotel, that they would select the hotel to be evacuated," Sturgill said. "It was that option that ended up with the hotel being evacuated and all the families moving out."
Sturgill said some families turned to the Salvation Army for shelter, but he's not sure yet where others are.
Charlotte Fire Department said in a statement Tuesday afternoon that firefighters responded to an alarm at the hotel caused by a damaged fire alarm pull station. "CFD arrived on scene and discovered significant issues with the fire alarm system as well as other life safety systems which rendered the building unsafe for occupancy. Both the owner of the hotel and all occupants were immediately notified that the building was unsafe and needed to be evacuated," the statement said.
The evacuation came just hours after a Superior Court judge said some long-term residents at the hotel had the right to stay for now. Judge Casey Viser also said the hotel's owners, OMS Ventures of Charlotte, had the right to remove others who are trespassing.
OMS Ventures had tried to shut down the Days Inn last month. The manager told WFAE at the time, and the company argued in legal documents, that the the hotel staff refused to work because of fears that some residents might have contracted the coronavirus.
In an order Monday, Viser listed the names of occupants in 13 rooms who were living at the Days Inn on April 20 and said they could stay, for now. The order did not protect anyone else still at the hotel, and said they could be removed as trespassers.
Viser did not issue a final ruling on the owners' request for a preliminary injunction to evict all the occupants. He continued the hearing until June 9.
Residents Ordered Out
Resident Shimica Isaac said she and her family were told to leave around 8:30 p.m. Monday.
"The manager brought the fire department there, and they said all the fire alarms in there were unsafe, so they condemned the building and made everybody leave," Isaac said. She is one of the long-term tenants who is represented by Legal Aid and who was given permission to stay.
Isaac said fire officials told residents they could move to the Salvation Army homeless shelter. She and her fiance and children moved to another hotel, with financial help from her mother, she said.
She said she's suspicious about what happened.
"It's just fishy that once we got the order from the court saying that we could stay there, all of a sudden he (the manager) shows up with the fire marshal," Isaac said.
Owners' Lawyer Comments
Asked to comment on the evacuation, the lawyer for OMS Ventures, William DeVore, said Tuesday morning: "My client had absolutely no control over a decision made by Charlotte Fire."
DeVore complained that news stories have unfairly focused on the residents, who he says have damaged the property.
"The news angle for you all here is COVID and 'kicking people on the streets' which is simply not true as evidenced by Charlotte Fire’s action and the fact that everyone was offered funds to relocate, even trespassers, and those known to have vandalized the property," DeVore said.
OMS Ventures says in legal filings that it offered some long-term residents up to $250 to move elsewhere, but none accepted.
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