Senior citizens still displaced after February Golden Tower fire

COVINGTON, KY - It has been six weeks since an electrical fire forced 165 senior citizens out of a Covington apartment building, and more delays could mean those residents may not get to return home for another month or more.

The fire developed in the basement of the Golden Tower on Feb. 22. All of the residents were evacuated.

Thomas Thompson lives there and said he remembers that night vividly.

"Noticed the halls are full of smoke, a black smoke, and I'm on the 17th floor, and this happened in the basement," said Thompson, who serves on the building's resident council.

The good news is that no one was injured in the blaze, and the damage wasn't significant. However, the 165 people who live at the tower, including Thompson, now have to stay with family or stay in three hotels provided by the Housing Authority of Covington: the Best Western, Holiday Inn, and Courtyard by Marriott.

"One of the things I miss is cooking my own meals," Thompson said.

The residents initially expected it would be a temporary three- or four-day visit, but it has become a six-week stay.

"Rooms are nice. First couple weeks, it was great, but it's getting old. We want to be back in our own places," Thompson said.

The residents' pets have been relocated too. For now, cats and dogs that belong to the tenants are living at the Kenton County Animal Shelter.

"These are their companion animals, and a lot of times, these are all they have," said Sarah Hightchew, the Lead Shelter Technician at the Kenton Co. Animal Shelter.

Tenants can come by and visit their pets at the shelter, and if they are not able to visit, they can call and check on their animal.

"Doing everything we can hear to keep them stimulated, to keep them happy, to keep them healthy," Hightchew said.
The hold-up on the housing is due to repairs. Officials said the building needs some updates and replacements, particularly in the mechanical room, which is where the fire started.
Thompson said insurance needs to give the stamp of approval.
"They have to remake another part or design it and make it, so who knows how long it might be," Thompson said.
Hightchew said they've been told the tenants and pets will hopefully return home in May.
"We really just want to go home, and I'm sure they want us to be home," Thompson said.

Residents said they are appreciative of all the help but are just ready for the next step in the process.

The executive director of the Housing Authority of Covington said they're thankful for their residents' patience and appreciate the hotels and the animal shelter for helping out. He also said that their main goal is to get the tenants home, but into a safe building.

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