162 residents evacuated at Vie Lofts


Jaden Edison

Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner (left) and Fire Chief Les Stephens (right) address the media Sept. 20 at the Vie Lofts apartments in San Marcos. 162 occupants were being evacuated from the apartment building due to stability issues and other safety concerns.

Jakob Rodriguez, Editor-In-Chief

Editor’s note: the following article was originally posted online Sept. 20, this version of the article has been edited to reflect current information regarding Vie Lofts.

San Marcos Fire Marshal Kelly Kistner issued a mandatory evacuation for residents of Vie Lofts located at 817 Chestnut St.

City officials on the scene stated that concern for building safety began to arise after concerns of the cracking walls in the parking garage and stairwells. Fire Chief Les Stephens said that the evacuation was done out of an abundance of caution.

“We were called here earlier today,” Stephens said. “We were made aware of an issue with one of the stairwells that has some issues, basically it (the stairwell) rendered it unable to be used as a means of emergency egress (exit) for the occupants. While investigating that, we found that a second stairwell was also unable to be used as a means of emergency egress. Out of an abundance of caution we have worked with the owners here to coordinate an orderly evacuation and withdraw of the building. The owners have secured other lodging for the residents and we’ll work with them over the weekend to get them the support that they need.”

Stephens said that he anticipates residents will be able to return back to their residence to retrieve other belongings and personal items early next week. Stephens said the San Marcos Regional Animal Shelter, as well as other departments within the city, have helped in the evacuation.

“We’re instructing them ahead of time to take things, such as the stuff they need for school, (any) medication. All pets are being removed from the building, if they need help taking care of those our animal shelter here in San Marcos is going to take care of them,” Stephens said. “A lot of different agencies have worked together to do this. We do understand that this places a significant burden on the resident to have to withdraw from their residence, but again, out of abundance of caution we think this is what is best because we are not able to take care of and protect those stairwells with the building in the condition that it is in currently.”

Stephens said that in order for a stairwell to function properly, it has to be a place of safe refuge for the occupants who are fleeing the building from a fire.

“The structural integrity of those stairwells has been compromised because of cracks in the (concrete masonry unit) breaks in the CMU, some of them have even collapsed and fallen away,” Stephens said.

Additionally, Stephens said that concern was also raised of the structural integrity of the stairwells themselves and a damaged door frame. The apartment complex has three stairwells for resident use. In their current condition, one stairwell is structurally unsafe and the other stairwell, where it releases to the outside is obstructed. After the initial visit to the complex, Stephens said action needed to be taken.

Monday, Sept. 23, structural engineers and city officials walked through the property for an inspection with Co-Founder of Vie Management Derrick Milam.

According to Milam, the stairwell and door frame do not have a direct impact with the structural integrity of the building. The city has requested Vie Lofts compute a new safety evacuation plan for them to evaluate within 24 hours. Vie Lofts plans on submitting the plan on Wednesday so they can return students back to home.

“These are people’s kids,” Stephens said. “We had the previous apartment fire where we lost five students and we just don’t want a repeat of that.”

Students were relocated to hotels and other apartment complexes while Vie Lofts is repaired.

Mario Fuentes, exercise science and wellness sophomore and Vie Lofts resident, was relocated to Homewood Suites with his roommates and said Vie Lofts will be picking up the cost.

“I’m worried about how long it will take for me to move back,” Fuentes said. “I absolutely would not (feel safe moving back).”

A timeline of the complex’s structural integrity review by the San Marcos Fire Department has not been set in order for ownership to address necessary repairs, but Stephens reported that management has been cooperative in the evacuation process.

The University Star will follow the displacement of Texas State University students and the structural assessment of Vie Lofts as updates become available. Vie Lofts passed the last fire inspection conducted by SMFD last fall. Vie Lofts was an advertising partner with The University Star during the 2019-2020 school year.

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