CASA and the firm of Bailey Glasser LLP announced Wednesday, September 7, the filing of a lawsuit against all the parties responsible for the August 10 fire at the Flower Branch Apartments in Silver Spring.
The lawsuit, to be officially filed later this month, will include more than 80 residents who have been impacted by the fire and feel ignored by current management.
In his remarks, CASA’s Executive Director Gustavo Torres, said that the time has come to turn to the larger fight for justice.
“CASA believes that justice for these families means holding those responsible for this disaster accountable,” Torres said. “But more than that, we believe that true justice requires systemic change.”
The explosion and subsequent fire occurred shortly after midnight on Wednesday, August 10, consuming two four-story apartment buildings at 8701 and 8703 Piney Branch Rd., near University Boulevard. The fire was the result of a gas explosion in a meter room, which was located in the basement of one of the buildings. As a result of the fire: 7 people died, including two children, 30 were treated at area hospitals, dozens are suffering PTSD and 84 families were displaced from their homes
“We’ve seen this tragedy up close and we feel we need to help those that need it. It forces me, on a personal level, to ask how people survive something like this?” Torres said. “This fire did not just destroy a building; it destroyed so much more and our hearts are broken for those who lost everything.”
Cary Joshi, an attorney with the firm Bailey and Glasser:
“Our team at Bailey and Glasser has a long and extensive history working with communities who have been impacted in similar tragedies,” Joshi said. “We plan to support this community and its efforts to make fundamental and necessary changes that ensure that what happened August 10, never happens again.”
After the press conference, a group of about 50 residents and organizers walked to the Flower Branch Management offices to turn in a two-page list of demands, which included a meeting to discuss the residents’ concerns. The petition included the names of more than 100 residents.
The issues included:
- Ending mistreatment and harassment from apartment managers and security personnel at Flower Branch Apartments, including but not limited to the following steps:
-Immediate removal of current administrative staff.
-Establishment of a collaborative process for hiring new administrative staff, who are qualified for their positions and who will treat the tenants with dignity and respect.
-Respect the right of tenants to organize without harassment and intimidation.
-Immediate end to harassment by private security staff at Flower Branch Apartments, including cessation of the practices of:
- Requiring tenants to repeatedly show their IDs to enter their own apartments
- Denying access to the apartments for social workers and other individuals seeking to provide services to residents
- General intimidation by security guards
- Deplorable building conditions that need to be addressed. Apartments that were evacuated during the fire and are now occupied have not been properly repaired, and other apartments have broken balcony railings and rotten floorboards. Evacuations due to gas leaks have continued to happen since the explosion, and this is of great concern for tenants.
- Clarification of fees, penalties, water charges and parking regulations. It is not clear for tenants how these fees, including water charges, are calculated and allocated. Parking regulations are confusing, leaving many tenants without the ability to park at the complex, and/or getting fined and towed.
- Discuss plans for reconstruction: The committee strongly feels that a memorial should be built to remember the victims who perished in the fire, and as a promise to continue to build a stronger and united community to prevent this tragedy from ever happening again.
The petitioners walked into the apartment offices demanding to be heard. After a short discussion, the management refused to give a date as to when a meeting would occur but promised to get back with an answer within 24 hours.