Richmond high rise condemned

Posted at 7:49 PM, Jan 15, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-16 06:34:36-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—A sprinkler malfunction leaves a Richmond high rise condemned and dozens of residents homeless.

Richmond fire officials said a sprinkler head on the 8th floor malfunctioned and caused widespread water damage to the Grace Place apartments, located at 400 East Grace.

The 11-story building was evacuated just before 7 a.m. on Tuesday. Officials said that the water flowed for a bit as crew searched for the valve to stop the leak.

Then, Richmond's code enforcement condemned the building a short time later.

"I thought the building was falling apart...that it was a real situation going on, “said Zachary Richardson, a displaced resident.

Richardson is upset about losing his home, and will now have to temporarily live in a makeshift shelter—the last place he wants to be, he said.

Tuesday, dozens of residents were transported to Fifth Street Baptist church to get food and reserve shelter, while the Red Cross works with several city agencies on a permanent plan for housing.

"Once the sprinkler system was actually shut off, we escorted certain residents back in that needed to get medication and clothing.  Important documents....things of that nature,” said Richmond Fire Lieutenant Robbie Hagaman.

"We're going to get those plans to them as soon as possible as to where they're going to be in the days to come,” said Jonathan McNamara with the Greater Richmond Red Cross.

Richardson said he's just hoping, he won't be here too long.

“It's mind-boggling how one incident lie this can dislocate so many different people,” said Richardson.

A spokesman with Cushman and Wakefield, Thalhimer said they’re working with the Red Cross to get the residents housing.  CBS 6 looked at the inspection records for the building’s sprinkler system. 

The Fire Marshall said those inspections have been done on a yearly basis.

And right now, it doesn’t appear to be a maintenance issue.  Fire officials are still trying to find out why the sprinkler head malfunctioned.