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Residents of Utah apartment building deemed unsafe given two-day extension to evacuate

By Ashley Imlay, KSL | Posted - Feb 13th, 2019 @ 9:23pm

SALT LAKE CITY — Residents who earlier this week were given three days to evacuate their apartments have been granted an extension of two more days before they have to leave, city officials said Wednesday.

Residents at Georgia Apartments, 203 E. 2100 South, in the Liberty Wells neighborhood of Salt Lake City, were told to evacuate after the landlord ignored repeated requests to get the building up to fire code, according to Salt Lake City officials.

For Michael Cousert, a resident of the building for 15 years who said he is severely disabled, the week has left him "drained." But he's grateful things are looking up.

"Everything's working really good," Cousert said.

The Salt Lake City Division of Housing and Neighborhood Development has established housing plans for occupants of 30 units, officials said. The number of occupied units was originally estimated by city officials as 42, but officials on Wednesday said that only 31 are occupied.

"Of those, 24 units have immediate housing secured, six units are in various stages of housing assistance, with only one unit not yet engaged," according to a statement from the city.

For now, the bishop of Cousert's congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is putting him up in a motel room, and Salt Lake Community Action is working on getting him into county senior housing. "The first room that opens up is mine," Cousert said.

Cousert said he's grateful that he gets to remain in his Latter-day Saint ward. Earlier this week, "It seemed like everything was working against us," he recalled.

He plans to be all moved out by Thursday evening.

The 24-hour "fire watch" that has been provided by the fire marshal since the evacuation order came down has been extended until noon Saturday. After that deadline, Salt Lake City will provide escorts for those needing to go into the building to collect personal items that were left behind, officials said.

"It is incredible how quickly our teams worked to find new housing solutions for the residents of Georgia Apartments, who are having their lives uprooted because of the actions of their landlord," said Mayor Jackie Biskupski in the statement. "This was a difficult decision to make, but our fire professionals will always prioritize the safety of all Salt Lake City residents above all else."

The city announced Monday the apartments contain a number of fire hazards including exits blocked by junk, a wet sprinkler system "due to missing windows, doors and nonfunctional heating system," electrical wiring not up to code, and missing fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. The fire marshal is also concerned that cold weather has frozen the building's sprinkler pipes.

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