Life is anything but normal for Olbiston residents

By PAT BAILEY

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Some 300 tenants of the Olbiston Apartments in Utica,are still unable to get back in their home five days after a fire damages several apartments.

All of the residents have the option of being escorted back into their apartment to retrieve their personal belongings and check on their pets they were forced to leave behind, said Mark Swedin, a tenant and employee of the Olbiston Apartments.

"We never would have expected it and it has just turned a lot of people's lives up side down," Swedin said. "Everybody has to relocate. There are a lot of children who have to get to school. It is a big mess, that is what it is."

Julie Babitz is one of the tenants who was forced to bounce around from place to place since the fire.

"(Everyone is) trying to keep focused on finding places to live...a new place to live," she said.

On Tuesday, about a dozen tenants sat on the front steps of the building, some saying they had nowhere else to go. Many tenants walked out of the building with bags full of personal belongings.

Residents say they have no idea when they will be allowed back in to their home.

"The owner is trying to get things moving quickly, so hopefully, in the near future, we will be back up and able to return to our apartments," Swedin said.

Andria Delisle-Heath of the Mohawk Valley Chapter of the Red Cross says the Olbiston fire is the biggest response the chapter has had to deal with since the floods of 2006. It is also the largest response that the chapter has ever had to deal with in terms of, specifically, a fire, Delisle-Heath said.

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