Fire Department orders evacuation of condominium building in Waukesha that could collapse

·3 min read
The Waukesha Fire Department evacuates of the 48-unit Horizon West Condominium Building at 315 N. West Avenue on Thursday, Dec. 2.
The Waukesha Fire Department evacuates of the 48-unit Horizon West Condominium Building at 315 N. West Avenue on Thursday, Dec. 2.

The Waukesha Fire Department ordered the evacuation of the 48-unit Horizon West Condominium Building, 315 N. West Avenue, Thursday night, saying the building was an imminent threat of collapsing.

According to the city of Waukesha, an independent structural engineering report showed compromised conditions of existing structural columns.

"The moment we became aware of these issues this evening, we put an evacuation plan into action," the city wrote on its Facebook page.

"The building consists of 48 units and all families are currently being evacuated by police and fire personnel who are going door to door. The City is working with the Salvation Army of Waukesha to assist families with immediate housing needs."

Waukesha police did not have any further information on evacuation efforts, but one officer made clear his take on the reasoning behind it.

"We're trying to avoid a 'Florida,'" said Lt. Kevin Rice, in reference to the condo collapse in Surfside, Fla., in June that claimed the lives of nearly 100 people.

The New York Times reported that three years before the collapse, a consultant found alarming evidence of “major structural damage” and “abundant” cracking and crumbling of columns, beams and walls.

Vanessa Terrazas, a neighbor standing less than a block away from the condo late Thursday, became aware of structural problems through a Facebook post earlier in the evening. It explained what she had been noticing this week.

"I work from home and I heard all the construction the past couple of days," Terrazas said. "It's been loud."

Still, the social media post caught her off-guard.

"I looked on Facebook and said, 'Oh my gosh, that's the building right there.' So I walked over there. ... I just came to offer support, to see if anyone needed anything, or I could take a pet in, or anything, " Terrazas said

Coming less than two weeks after the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy, Terrazas said this latest incident only adds to the community's stress. "How much more can Waukesha take right now?" she asked.

Jacqueline Gonzales, whose father lives in the building, was likewise staying close, remaining within a block of the building, waiting for her father to return home from a bible study at a local church. She hadn't been able to reach him.

"I don't even know if he knows he isn't going to have a home when he comes back from bible study," Gonzales said. "He's got nothing right now."

She had also heard that a building inspector had been on site and determined the building was no longer structurally sound. Gonzales said she understood that workers had been in the process of removing the balconies and air conditioning units from the building this week.

"It was just an inspector saying they didn't know if it was going to collapse. They're even getting the people (in neighboring homes) out."

Due to the possible collapse zone, the properties at 323 N. West Avenue and 307 N. West Avenue are also being evacuated.

Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 391-5647 or DBentley1@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DrakeBentleyMJS.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Horizon West Condominium evacuates in Waukesha, could collapse

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