UPDATE: Jaycee Towers repairs could take up to 3 days
Jaycee Towers in downtown Chattanooga was evacuated Monday after a fire was reported on the eighth floor.
"It was really hard to breathe," explains twelfth floor resident, Rosie Swetman.
Swetman clutched her dog, Scoobie, late Monday morning as she recalls her experience. She says she and her husband woke up to the smell of smoke, no water and no power.
"Then I opened the door and there was smoke all in the hallway," Swetman explains.
A few stories down fire fighters made their way to the eighth floor where the fire began in a utility room.
"Had a lot of electrical hook ups," Chattanooga Fire Department spokesman, Bruce Garner says.
While firefighters evacuated those in the immediate area some were clueless there was even an emergency.
"Power went out and I thought maybe somebody had a wreck, knocked down a transformer. I didn't know it was in the building," seventh floor resident, Debbie McKinney says.
The fire didn't injure anyone. The problem came as residents evacuated the building. They say emergency lights in one stairwell never came on leaving people like Swetman and her husband in the dark. With a number of residents with pre-existing health conditions, with the darkness comes danger.
"It was very difficult for us to walk down the stairway. I had to hold up against the wall and made sure my husband took one step at a time," Swetman says.
"We've been made aware of that, as a result we're bringing in assistant fire marshals from the fire marshal's office. They'll be doing a follow up on that to find out if that's true and if that were the case they'll work to remedy that situation," says Garner.
Residents also said they didn't hear smoke alarms, another claim fire investigators will look into.
The fire knocked out power to the entire building. EPB officials say it may not be restored until Tuesday.
About 150 residents were evacuated, CARTA buses took them to a temporary shelter at the South Chattanooga Rec Center where the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army are providing assistance and food. However, for some that's the least of their worries.
Eighty-two of the residents stayed overnight at the shelter. The Red Cross had volunteers and trained nurses to care for the residents, and the Chattanooga Salvation Army provided dinner for everyone.
"Just being able to get back into my apartment, making sure my cats are alright," McKinney says.
At 4 p.m. Monday crews were still working to evacuate the building. Garner says the elevators did not work and fire fighters had to carry some residents down the 18-story-building.
EPB says repairs should take 36 to 72 hours.
READ MORE | Electrical fire forces evacuation of J.C. Towers