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Reports of heating issues at Fire Tower Apartments in brutal cold

Fire Tower Apartments
Posted at 6:13 PM, Jan 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-12 20:13:48-05

HELENA — With a high of -14 F this weekend, most Montanans look to stay inside the warmth of their home.

But, according to one former resident from the Fire Tower Apartments, the subzero temperatures outside are no different from inside their units.

MTN had multiple individuals contact us about a lack of heat in the Fire Tower Apartment complex on Friday and in the past.

Jane Mcfarlane is a retired social worker. She moved into the apartments in July of 2022 and moved out just last month.

"My apartment got down below 50 inside I know. So, I heated mine with an oven and contacted the management at the time, but they didn't have any extra heaters cause they had already given them out," said Mcfarlane about last winter.

On Friday we spoke with maintenance at the building, and they informed us that management had purchased ten new space heaters just this morning for impacted residents.

The fire tower apartments have 24 units in total.

The maintenance person also said residents were encouraged to use their electric stoves and ovens to help heat their units.

According to McFarlane, Fire Tower Apartments use Fujitsu Mini-Split heaters, and at the time she moved out in December, the complex had been unable to replace the boiler from the previous year.

She said, "The management at the time tried to turn the boiler on, and it flooded down into the garage and the apartments that were facing the east. And then, I was told by the management that the boiler was condemned. And then, I was told by other management that the boiler was condemned and that, yes, these Fujitsu Mini-Splits don't operate in subzero temperatures. So, the backup plan was to put a new boiler into the building, which to my knowledge, when I moved out in December, that still wasn't done."

Snow Warning

Fire Tower Apartments is an affordable housing complex that received funding in 2019 for rehabilitation. The Affordable Housing Trust Fund funded part of it, and the project was led by United Housing Partners.

"[If] all of the parties, the powers that be, that participated in the funding and the work in this building knew the reality of really what it's like for someone to live there. I've made comments, 'come spend a night,' because how it's advertised and how it's promoted is not the reality of what it's like to be there," said Mcfarlane.

We reached out to management from Fire Tower Apartments; however, they did not respond in time for our story to air.