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Residents move back in slowly after towers fire

ALBANY -- About 60 of the 96 people evacuated Monday from Hudson Malone Towers could return to their apartments by 7 p.m. Tuesday, said Dan McCarthy, executive director of the Albany Housing Authority.

A fourth floor 4:52 p.m. kitchen fire at the authority-administered residence for the elderly and disabled necessitated the evacuation of the building's residents, McCarthy said. There were no injuries, he added.

Most of the damage to the building resulted from smoke and water, McCarthy said. The fire sent smoke through the building and the Albany Fire Department pumped water on the fire to stop it from raging through the building.

"Everyone in the east wing can go home today (Tuesday)," McCarthy said. "That leaves 36 who have to wait until we complete the drying out of the building. It could take a week."

Of the 36 who were not able to return to the apartment building Tuesday, McCarthy said the majority had places to go. Five would need to be assisted by the Southwest Georgia Red Cross with a place to stay overnight.

"That is just for one night," McCarthy said. "We'll see what kind of other arrangements we can make for them tomorrow."

Upon immediate evacuation Monday residents were either met by relatives and friends or taken to the SOWEGA Council on Aging Senior Center on the 300 block of Pine Avenue.

The majority of the people displaced from their apartments found a place to stay with relatives or friends, said Mari Wright, Red Cross executive director.

"We put 28 people up at a hotel," Wright said. "We do not receive any government money for this. We work with donations."

The Red Cross and SOWEGA also arranged food for the evacuated people. On Tuesday, the Red Cross provided breakfast for those it had placed in hotel rooms.

Ole Times Country Buffet's manager had lunch delivered to the Albany Housing Authority for those still under the Red Cross' care.

"I was in my apartment after work when I heard the alarm," said resident James Turner, 44, over lunch. "They evacuated us to SOWEGA, then got us rooms. Looks like I'll be back in my apartment today. No one was injured, that is the good part."

This wasn't the first time an evacuation displaced residents from the five-story building because of a fire. In December 2007, items on a stove caught fire and the building was evacuated with no injuries.

Residents were appreciative of the help they received from the agencies involved.

"They treated us wonderful," said Marie Ball, 65, a towers resident. "I can't wait to get back to my apartment. Thank Jesus."