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Another fire spotlights troubled Georgia apartment complex

January 23, 2022 GMT

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Another fire at a troubled Augusta apartment complex is focusing attention on the city’s efforts to improve conditions for residents.

The latest fire at Azalea Park Apartments on Tuesday displaced seven families, news outlets reported. It was the fourth fire at the complex since 2020, and came came after two deadlines had passed for the owner to remedy code violations.

A Dec. 8 fire at the same complex displaced 15 people.

An inspection in December showed exposed wiring needed to be repaired in the building where a fire was found inside a wall on Tuesday. That inspection also called for the owners to install working smoke detectors in the building.

Augusta-Richmond County’s code enforcement unit inspected in October and December, finding dozens of violations that filled 159 pages. The inspection found existing fire damage, raw sewage, extensive flooding and water damage, exposed wires, missing fixtures, rodent and insect infestation. Some buildings in the complex were condemned.

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Local officials originally gave Atlanta-based Dunross Capital and Azalea Sureste Partners a November deadline to make repairs. The complex failed to complete them but the Augusta Commission voted against revoking its business license because it would have displaced 70 residents. The complex then got an extension until the end of December.

Augusta Commissioner Dennis Williams said commissioners are supposed to be updated on the complex soon.

“They have made some improvements,” Williams said. “It’s still not up to par.”

Current and former tenants say the complex began to decline after it was purchased by the current owners.

“When I first moved here, it was a little rough,” said Debbie Demmons, who lives at Azalea Park. “But, they tried to get us some security. They’ve tried everything they can.”

Calls to the complex’s leasing office were not returned.