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Hundreds to return to Summit Towers after evacuation on Tuesday

After a small fire disabled an apartment complex's elevator, hundreds had to evacuate. Many depended on it for mobility to their rooms and out of the building.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Tuesday, hundreds of people left Summit Towers with wheelchairs, walkers and other kinds of mobility aids. They were evacuated after a small fire activated a sprinkler system in the building. That sprinkler system caused issues with the apartment's elevator, which many depended on to enter and exit their rooms.

They were taken to the Jacob Building where a temporary shelter was put up for them. The American Red Cross helped organize meals and care, and after several days, residents will be able to return home on Saturday.

"They've just experienced a tough time, having to evacuate and leave their home," Executive Director of the Red Cross Sharon Hudson said.  "We've had 40 or more volunteers that have extensive training, not just in setting up a shelter, but ensuring that all their needs are met."

Nearly 300 people will be returning home, with plans to reunite them with pets they also had to give to Young Williams Animal Center. A bus will pick residents up from their shelter in phases, starting at 8:45 a.m. A full list of the phases is available 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

Hudson thanked the community members and businesses who stepped in to help the residents. They received three meals a day from Cracker Barrel, Subway and Food City with snacks also handed out throughout the day.

Information about whether residents would need to pay rent for the days they were not living in the complex, and any other plans from the property owners were not immediately available.