Elevators damaged in fire prompt evacuation of Summit Towers residents

Almost 300 residents were relocated from Summit Towers following a fire, which caused sprinklers to go off.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 6:20 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 12, 2022 at 10:39 AM EST
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Live Update: After evacuation of Summit Towers

Hundreds of seniors forced to evacuate after elevators damaged in fire at Summit Towers

Posted by WVLT on Wednesday, January 12, 2022

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Knoxville Fire Department firefighters evacuated residents of Summit Towers at 210 Locust Street on Tuesday, according to Knoxville Fire Department Asst. Fire Chief Mark Wilbanks.

KFD responded to a call around 11:50 p.m. to Summit Towers Monday when smoking material caused a fire on a sofa on the eighth floor, Wilbanks told WVLT News. The fire then prompted the sprinkler system to go off, which damaged a few floors.

The elevator stopped working after water rushed into the elevator shaft, prompting the Tuesday evacuation of the residents, according to Wilbanks.

“This is out of an abundance of caution for the safety of all residents living in the building,” Wilbanks said. “Currently, there is an issue with the elevators working properly after this morning’s fire.”

WVLT News spoke to a resident at Summit Towers, Peter Russo, who said, “Maybe they feed us. Maybe they won’t but hopefully, we have some money.”

The Red Cross assisted the KFD with the relocation of 278 residents to shelters around Knoxville. They used city buses to relocate them to the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park and assisting the residents to take whatever they need including medication.

Fire chaplain Paul Trumpone said the process of relocating people could take a while using city buses.

“It still takes one bus for every two wheelchair users and so we have a lot of wheelchair users in this building,” Trumpone said.

It is unknown when the residents will be moved back in or when the elevator will be fixed. Wilbanks estimated the evacuation will take hours and told WVLT News that residents cannot move back in until the elevator’s manufacturer can get repairs done.

As of 12:15 a.m. Wednesday, residents were still being transported.

Summit Towers is an apartment community for ages 62 and above, according to the home’s website.

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