Murfreesboro family displaced by fire, Neighbors feel at risk - WKRN News 2

Murfreesboro family displaced by fire, Neighbors feel at risk

Posted: Updated: Sep 28, 2012 4:32 PM CDT
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -

Very little can be salvaged from the charred inside of Chris Wagner's Wenlon Drive townhome in Murfreesboro.

"It's bad in there," Wagner told Nashville's News 2.  "Everything is black. Even upstairs, where smoke got upstairs. It's sully."

The fire sparked just before 6 a.m. Friday in a utility closet that housed an air conditioning unit and water heater.  Wagner and his family narrowly escaped.

"When I turned, I guess the flame burst out and caught the back of my hair and my back, so I've got some singed hair," he said.

According to the Murfreesboro Fire Department, the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

Wagner rents his townhome from property owner Al Eddy.  Eddy owns several properties along the same street.

In August, Nashville's News 2 visited the properties after tenants complained of mold, water damage, buckled floors and a hole in the wall.

On Friday, News 2 found the same hole sealed, floor tiles removed and some of the water damage repaired.

Tenants said repairs are appreciated, but things are not exactly better.

"He got ours fixed and now he [has] got to check everybody else, make sure it's safe in the house," said Tony Collier.

A moldy, water damaged bookshelf was removed from Collier's home, and drywall was replaced. The water damaged carpet adjacent to the bookshelf was scheduled to be removed within the next few days.

"I'm uncomfortable in my own home," said Princess Ballentine.

Ballentine refused to pay her $700 rent until a leaking air conditioning unit was fixed.

"I wasn't going to pay him because it was water from there all the way to the kitchen sink," she said.

Following Nashville's News 2's coverage, piping to the unit was replaced.  Ballentine claimed she offered to pay her overdue rent at that time, but was given an eviction notice instead.

Friday's fire has renters thinking about the minor repairs and ongoing maintenance problems with what they see as outdated or potentially faulty utilities.

The fire also made them take a second look at the properties' smoke alarms. Some are missing. Others don't have batteries or are not operational.

"He has to check everything out," Collier said of property owner Eddy, "because I don't want my house to get on fire either."

Nashville's News 2 spoke to property Eddy by phone.  He said the utilities in each townhome are functional, and he has no plans to replace them.

He also said no other major repairs were immediately expected to the townhomes untouched by the fire.

Two townhomes are uninhabitable due to fire, smoke and water damage.

The American Red Cross is providing temporary shelter for the Wagner family and another family for the next two days.

The tenants did not have renter's insurance to cover personal belongings.

The townhomes are covered under the property owner's insurance.

If you have concerns about possible codes violations in your home, contact your local municipal codes office to file a formal complaint.

Read more about landlord and tenant rights at TN.gov.

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