DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. – Firefighters rescued several people trapped on the second floor of an apartment building near Atlanta after the complex removed the stairs.
The staircase at the Maple Walk Apartments in Decatur, Georgia, is the only way in and out of several homes.
“This is crazy. How can you cut off access to the stairs and everybody’s in their apartments?” neighbor Andre Williams said.
— Leo Chavarria (@Journalist_Atl) June 5, 2017
Neighbors told WSB-TV’s Sophia Choi they woke up to the stairs being removed and no way to get down.
“What if there’s a fire or anything? Or someone hyperventilates, anything, any health problems?” Quintas Harris asked.
They found notices on their doors saying there would be no access to the stairs until Thursday.
“They gave us no notice. No nothing. They were already taking the stairs down when we got the notice this morning,” Shawnta Tiller said.
Choi tried to get a comment from complex managers, but no one answered the door or returned her call. The fire marshal wasn’t able to reach them, either.
Some residents say they did get a letter last week asking them to vacate after the stairs crumbled and started to lean.
“The right side of the stairwell collapsed. It slammed me into the wall,” Tiller said.
The letter offered to pay for hotel rooms for residents who had to move out.
“Rent credit will be given for you to stay in a hotel tonight and rent will not be charged for the amount of days it takes to get it repaired. You can have the option of being released from your lease without any penalty,” the letter read.
Tiller said she and her neighbors decided to stay in the apartments after management used wood beams to support the staircase.
Then on Monday, with no knock to warn them, residents say they woke up to crews removing their only way out.
“You can’t lock everybody up here. We feel trapped! There could be a fire. How are we supposed to get down?” Tiller said.
Choi called the fire department, which came out with a ladder to help get people to safety.
— Sophia Choi (@SophiaWSB) June 5, 2017
The rescued residents are now scrambling to find another place to stay until the stairs are fixed.
The fire marshal said the complex could get cited for code violations.
He said the lesson in this situation is to call for help right away.
“It’s better to be proactive, before an emergency takes place, as this case, than wait until a tragedy occurs because it certainly is not worth it. One phone call and it will be addressed,” Joseph Cox said.
The repair crew told Choi they plan to be back Tuesday to finish the job.