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Residents to return to Summit Towers Saturday, with at least one elevator back in working order

More than 100 residents were sheltered at the Jacob Building in Chilhowee Park, after efforts from the Red Cross.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UPDATE (6:30 p.m.): Residents at Summit Towers will be able to return to the building Saturday after many had to evacuate out of safety concerns following a small fire. The moisture from a sprinkler system caused an elevator to stop working, which prevented many residents from entering or leaving the building.

Most are elderly and need additional care to move around. They depended on the elevator to go up and down to their rooms.

On Saturday, officials said that they will be able to ride it once again. Millennia Housing Management said that at least one elevator is back in working order and the Fire Marshall approved the building for re-occupancy.

The property management team will help people return to the building on Jan. 15, following a schedule based on floors people lived on. That schedule is below:

  • 8:45 a.m. — Floors 12 and 11
  • 10:15 a.m. — Floors 9 and 10
  • 11:45 a.m. — Floors 7 and 8
  • 1:15 p.m. — Floors 5 and 6
  • 2:45 p.m. — Floors 4 and 3
  • 4:15 p.m. — Floors 1 and 2

A KAT bus will pick up residents from the Jacob Building in phases. They asked people to be ready to leave at their scheduled time. Young Williams will also meet them at Summit Towers if they needed to leave their pets with the shelter, returning people's dogs and cats.

If they can't meet their pet at the scheduled time, the property management team said they are working with Young Williams to care for pets until they can be reunited.

"We extend our appreciation to the American Red Cross Disaster Program at the Jacob Building for providing shelter, food, and emotional support, as well as to the Knoxville Fire Department, Knoxville Area Transit, the University of Tennessee and the to the broader community for their care, concern, and support," they said in a letter to residents.

Anyone with questions about the process to return to Summit Towers should call the business office at 865-525-5069.

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ORIGINAL: People who live at Summit Towers apartments in Knoxville can now be found living inside the Jacob Building at Chilhowee Park.

The renters were removed from their home on Tuesday evening for safety concerns, following a chain of events the days prior.

"[There was] a fire in one residence last [Monday] night. The sprinkler system did exactly what it was supposed to do and it saved the lives of the people in this building," Paul Trumpore, the Knoxville Fire Department Chaplain told 10News on Tuesday night.

However, because of that, the elevators started malfunctioning on Tuesday.

This was a big safety concern since Summit Towers mainly houses people 62 and older and those with disabilities. Residents often depend on the elevators to leave the building.

It scared one resident — Raymond Yarbrough.

"If a fire breaks, I got one at one leg, I can't use the stairs," Yarbrough said. "I'm just stuck, I might be worried that I could die. Because, I can't use the stairs. I can't use the stairs."

Yarbrough has lived in the Summit Towers for around 2 years. In that time, he remembers two different fires in the building. He said if this type of thing keeps happening, he will think about relocating permanently.

"I don't like being there. I'm paying rent and when things like this happen, it's not good," Yarbrough said. "I'm afraid this problem is going to happen again. So I'm planning to relocate if they don't get this thing straight now."

Yarbrough is now staying at the Jacob Building.

According to the Red Cross, 107 people stayed at the building Tuesday night. However, that number may vary in the nights to come.

"That shelter population can ebb and flow because some clients will go and stay at a friend or family member's home, sometimes they will then come here," said Sharon Hudson with the Red Cross.

The organization chose the Jacob Building due to its ability to hold so many people. Additionally, it had the necessary features to accommodate people with varying ability levels.

"For a population with some mobility issues, we want to make sure that we also have a facility with a lot of outlets that come with charging wheelchairs, it comes with the ability for space, and that the Jacob Building really fit that bill," Hudson said.

While most residents are frustrated to be removed from their home in the first place, many are thankful for the organization's help in relocation. 

"Thanks to the Red Cross people taking us in, giving us a safe warm place to sleep," said Elaine 'Holly' Bundy, a resident of Summit Towers.

Bundy is more grateful about the situation than most.

"I have to stay positive about this because we're not at KARM. And we're not on the streets. For us right now, this is our Hilton," Bundy said, "I just thank the Lord that he's taken care of us."

The residents said they have not been given a timeline as to how long they will be displaced. The Red Cross isn't sure either.

Until then, it's a waiting game at the Jacob Building.