- Associated Press - Friday, January 24, 2014

RUSTON, La. (AP) - Concerns over the condition of heating units in a Ruston apartment complex forced the state fire marshal to evacuate residents.

The Drew Apartments complex consists of 32 units housing three persons each. The News-Star (https://tnsne.ws/1l5lU1R) reports estimates suggest more than 90 people have been displaced.

State Fire Marshal Butch Browning said his investigation of Drew Apartments began after a fire that occurred Jan. 9, displacing nine international and three domestic students from Louisiana Tech University. An inspection of the buildings indicated heating units at the complex were not up to code and susceptible to catching fire as a result.

Cole Miner, a chemistry student at Tech, still has not been able to reclaim his belongings from the fire, which resulted in the flooding of his apartment. He and several other students displaced from the fire relocated to other apartments in the complex and were forced to evacuate a second time on Thursday.

Since Jan. 9, in accordance with the fire marshal’s requirements, licensed contractors worked at the apartments to remedy outstanding maintenance issues posing risks to tenants. On Thursday, however, “contractors packed their equipment and left the scene. Those contractors, hired by Drew Apartments management, cited their reasons as not having been paid for their work on the complex,” said a news release from the Office of State Fire Marshal.

At that point, Browning issued a cease-and-desist order. “The apartments must be vacated and not occupied for any purpose until approved by the Office of State Fire Marshal. … The order results from conditions found to exist that are especially liable to fire or dangerous to life.”

With the temperatures expected to fall below freezing Thursday night, Browning said he had no choice but to order the apartment complex evacuated, as the cold temperatures would put additional strain on the faulty heaters.

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Information from: The News-Star, https://www.thenewsstar.com

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