AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been one year since a three-alarm fire ripped through the Dry Creek West Condominiums in northwest Austin. Three firefighters went to the hospital after the second floor collapsed. But after an investigation into what happened and several other delays, homeowners still can’t go home.
“It’s hard for me to talk about,” said Denise Hurd, one of the displaced homeowners. “It’s not knowing, and this is your home – this is all I have.”
Hurd’s condominium wasn’t actually damaged by the fire, but because the rest of the building sustained so much damage, she wasn’t able to go back home. But Hurd says after her condo was neglected for a year, there’s black mold in it.
Those displaced have had to continue paying mortgages, HOA fees and possibly rent somewhere else. “The lack of communication makes you feel like you’re being dismissed,” said Hurd.
Several neighbors tell KXAN they believe more should have been done by both the management company, Pioneer Real Estate Services, and the Dry Creek West Condo Association to get the process underway to demolish and rebuild homes.
“I would think a management company could write a book on disasters and how to handle them, and basically we’ve been path-finding on our own,” said Hurd. “You have to pay your mortgage, you have to pay your HOA dues, and some are struggling to keep up with that.”
In recent months they’ve reached out to the city for help, asking Council Member Sheri Gallo’s office to help get them answers faster.
“What was important to me was to make sure that the city wasn’t the problem in the delays and that it was really critical for us to make sure that our departments were doing everything they could,” said Gallo. “And I think they were very committed to making sure that whatever process had to come through the city was done in a very expedited way.”
Since homeowners reached out, Gallo brought together city staff, residents, the management company and HOA for meetings to talk about the progress.
Hurd is happy discussions are happening, but says she’s emotionally drained. “The hope is that this building is going to be demolished and everybody can come to a meeting-of-the-minds and get this building built. This is our higher purpose, get everyone back in our homes.”
Krista Sease with the HOA told KXAN they’re doing everything they can to get back on track after the fire investigation delayed the project by several months. She says with multiple parties and multiple vendors, they’re doing the best they can for the community. The city has requested monthly check-ins on progress, and she says they’re more than happy to comply.
The management company Pioneer declined KXAN’s request to speak on camera. Their contract to manage the property has not been renewed, and the HOA is reviewing their options for other companies. The HOA would not say if that decision was based on how this incident was handled. In all, 20 units were impacted by the fire.