Two years after fire, Austin condo owners still can’t go home

Dry Creek West Condominiums under construction after fire. (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Dry Creek West Condominiums under construction after fire. (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s been 24 months since Denise Hurd has been able to go home.

“It’s really hard to believe,” she said. “It’s been very stressful.”

Next week marks two years 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 with construction, homeowners are still waiting to get back into their homes.

“At one point we thought we would get back in in October and then at one point we thought December and now they’re saying March,” Hurd said.

Her condominium was not damaged by the fire, but because the rest of the building sustained so much damage, she wasn’t able to go back home. She says it took a full year before officials decided to demolish and rebuild the 20 units.

“I expected nobody to understand what it’s like but I was hoping people would get the information that we needed especially people who have stood up to kind of shepherd us. There’s just not the right communication,” Hurd said.

Adding insult to injury, those displaced like Hurd have, by law, continued paying mortgages and HOA fees for the last two years.

Dry Creek West Condominiums under construction after fire. (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)
Dry Creek West Condominiums under construction after fire. (KXAN Photo/Alicia Inns)

In 2016, one year after the fire — KXAN spoke to Krista Sease with the HOA. She said 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.

Since then, a new construction company has taken over the project.

“For anyone going through a disaster like this, it might cost a little more on the front end, but get professional guidance because if you path-find on your own, mistakes are made and delays happen,” Hurd said.

It’s not just learning lessons for homeowners. Firefighters say this opened their eyes too.

“Within that fire we had several things that we identified as problems,” said AFD Division Chief Palmer Buck.

Three firefighters were severely injured in the blaze after falling through the floor. Austin fire conducted an investigation and found 80 areas of improvement, lessons they now use as tools to get better.

“After the fire, we changed some of our training programs some of the ways we do fireground tactics and actually helped out with some of our critical incident procedures and we are the better for it.”

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