City says residents of apartment blast must vacate hotels

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An email sent to tenants on Monday said work to restore gas service is expected to be completed within the next 7-14 days.

DALLAS – The nearly 250 tenants displaced after an apartment explosion in south Dallas last week received leaflets announcing that their stay at the hotel was extended “at least” until Wednesday.

The city’s Emergency Management Office confirmed to the WFAA on Tuesday that tenants were due to be vacated by Thursday due to rooms already booked for the Texas / OU weekend.

“I’m pretty sure they made these reservations long before that happened,” said Audelia Camarillo.

Camarillo said she and the other tenants weren’t told why they should vacate the three downtown Dallas hotels they were staying in, but she understands.

“It would be an inconvenience for them, but it’s a little upsetting,” Camarillo said. “But who wants to give their room, don’t they?”

RELATED: “We Must Rebuild Our Lives From The Ground Up”: Families Share Concerns About Communication and Permanent Housing After Dallas Apartment Blast

The State Fair website said the highly anticipated weekend typically draws 100,000 people. The price of rooms at the hotel where Camarillo is staying with his family has almost doubled for a Friday check-in, compared to a reservation for a Wednesday-Friday stay.

Meanwhile, Camarillo said being forced to evacuate her home has changed her family’s plans this year.

“We can’t even take them to the fair because we don’t have any money,” Camarillo said.

Camarillo is focusing on what comes after Wednesday. She said she hoped tenants would be offered vouchers for another hotel, but said it would be more difficult to get her children to school on time. Their school is a short walk from the hotel she is staying at, but she has already seen the struggle for families whose children attend school near their apartment complex.

Although the company that owns Highland Hills did not respond to requests for comment or information from the WFAA, tenants did provide emails and flyers sent by property management.

Residents were told to return to their units, if they live in buildings other than the two demolished after the explosion, but were told the gas had not been restored. An email sent to tenants on Monday said work to restore gas service is expected to be completed within the next 7-14 days.

“How are we supposed to feel safe? Camarillo asked.

She said she heard conflicting stories about what caused the explosion, but doesn’t think it would have happened if the property had been properly maintained.

RELATED: ‘I Feel Completely Blown Up’: Mom Displaced by Dallas Apartment Blast Faces Trauma and Homelessness

“People don’t care about communities like ours,” Camarillo said.

She became emotional as she spoke of her return to the property on Tuesday.

“All of our kids are standing and playing on this thing where the building was demolished,” Camarillo said. “They stand there and hang out. If that had happened on the weekend, our children would have died.

She said an employee at the complex had said its residents would not be released from their leases unless their buildings were destroyed. She said she was told to take legal action.

“I just want to leave the apartments and start over,” Camarillo said.

Several agencies worked to serve the displaced tenants. The City also announced a resource center at the Erik Jonsson Central Library, which will be open Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If you would like to lend your support, you can donate to the City of Dallas Emergency Relief Fund at the Dallas Foundation, bit.ly/3oqXGVu.

If any non-profit groups are interested in helping displaced residents, they can email [email protected] with their contact details and the resources they provide to include in the resource guide.

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