Workers impacted by Brookside Fire

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COLUMBIA - Laborers from insulation contractors to tiling companies said Monday they will be out of work for months following the Brookside Apartment fire Sunday. The impact on workers exists in addition to the problem for student tenants scrambling to find housing.

Insulation workers said they put in three months on this project, which was scheduled for completion by August. Those workers are waiting to find out how much of the building can be salvaged and on what areas they must start from scratch.

Worker Todd Martin said he understands all the units in the structure has been leased for fall.

"Now all those students that were going to rent here have to find a new place to live. There's no way we can rebuild this again in three months," Martin said.

Martin said the fire started at the center of the L shaped building where both wings connected. The area where the fire started was going to be the common area for the apartments and was considered incomplete. martin said it was still in the rough framing stage and nothing as far wiring for electrics or water came in this area.

The building's preliminary estimates place the damages at $7 million and almost a total loss.

 "Are they going to have to tear the whole thing down? Or I guess that's up to investigators and the builder to decide how much is salvageable. Yeah it just really put a little damper on things," Martin said.

Martin said he supports a family of three and has two other jobs, but he said many of his co-workers depended on this job as their only income. 

"We had really planned this building carrying us through for the next couple months because that's quite a bit of work. And to move your work around so that you can accommodate this building and keep employees here. Now you're going to have extra employees and no place to put them," Martin said.

The builder also has a project under construction on Elm Street, but workers said it cannot support all of them.

"It's half the size of this building. That'll keep us busy and hopefully by the time that one finishes up we'll start rebuilding this building. Depending on how much of this building is salvageable they may have to rebuild the whole thing," Martin said.

For now, workers and contract owners are saying they just want to get the project back on track.

"We're going to keep on keeping on to help facilitate getting these students housing," Simms and Simms Insulation owner Heather Simms said.

Martin said just from looking at the damages, he predicts the apartments can be rebuilt by November. He said it can be done in six to nine months, but they have to wait to hear from insurance investigators.

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