Apartment complex still without heat gets help from the city and many volunteers

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Residents of Summerset Apartment Complex are still without gas and heat but are receiving help from the public in attempts to make this situation a bit better.

An army of people, city workers, Red Cross volunteers, firefighters and construction workers going door-to-door, figuring out who needs help. All units got smoke detectors, portable heaters and blankets were also handed out and portable kitchens and showers are on the way.

There's a rush to help the estimated 1,800 residents of these 220 apartments. They've been living in unpleasant conditions for nearly two weeks, as resident Christy Phou explains. "Really bad for me, because I cannot cook, no hot water, I have to buy the electric pots and boil the water to take a shower and do the dishes."

The gas remains off as crews work to fix the leaks, all of which have been found outside the apartments. The first step is making the places safer. "Our primary concern is always life safety, and so what we've been doing today is teams working in conjunction with the Red Cross, have been going in and installing smoke detectors as well as carbon monoxide alarms," explained Jeffrey Guynn, Fresno Fire Department.

City officials are talking tough about dealing with the owner of the property and have indicated they could seize the property if he doesn't pay for the repairs, which the city is now financing. But Andy Levine of the Faith in Community, part of the Building Healthy Communities Group, believes the city's code enforcement should have been on top of this situation. "This is a reflection of an unwillingness to enforce codes. An unwillingness to proactively and routinely inspect the conditions that thousands of our families are living in."

About 20 0f these units were under contract with the Fresno Housing Authority, as a result of this incident they have canceled their contract with the landlord and given those residents vouchers to move. However, most of the others are stuck, and waiting for livable conditions to return but are grateful for the help they are getting from the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministry and others. "Today the first day I come here and I really happy because they help me a lot and they help a lot of people here," said Phou.

Most of the help has been coming from FIRM. They have been providing food and shelter to the residents as well as holding meetings to keep them informed.

According to city officials the mayor is going to declare a local state of emergency which should help provide funding, but it's up to the city council to approve it.

The city is also asking for donations of blankets and electric blankets to help keep residents warm. Donations can be taken to FIRM.

As for the portable showers, the city has said that they should arrive Wednesday but in the meantime residents who want to take a hot shower can go to San Joaquin Memorial High School where the locker rooms are open to them.

The property manager will be on site on Wednesday along with PG&E to review construction plans.

Small steps towards trying to make this situation better.
Copyright © 2021 KFSN-TV. All Rights Reserved.