Durham, NC – DURHAM, N.C. The Durham Housing Authority plans to allow hundreds of McDougald Terrace residents to stay in hotels because of ongoing problems with carbon monoxide at the Durham housing complex.
The voluntary evacuation of 111 units will begin Friday evening. DHA officials were scrambling Friday afternoon to secure hotel rooms as temporary housing of about 340 people and were lining up Uber and Lyft vehicles to get the people there.
Social services workers also were helping families get their belongings together for the move.
Nearly a dozen residents were sent to area hospitals since late November with elevated levels of carbon monoxide. Authorities are also trying to determine whether carbon monoxide is to blame for the deaths of two infants in McDougald Terrace apartments.
A third infant died on New Year’s Day in a rooming house above the McDougald Terrace store, according to a summary report released Friday by Lee Van Vleet, assistant chief of Durham County EMS. It’s unclear whether that death is linked to carbon monoxide. The report notes that rooming house isn’t part of the housing complex.
Two other children with elevated carbon monoxide levels were taken to a local hospital Thursday after a community meeting on the issue, according to the summary report.
On Friday, firefighters rushed to McDougald Terrace again to check a carbon monoxide detector as a woman with children walked out of an apartment. Family members say the alarm kept going off.
“I think she called to be on the safe side because we already heard about the other kids out here and the stuff going on,” said the woman’s sister, Jikel Holloway.
Firefighters said there appears to be an issue with the alarm, and no one was hurt.
On Thursday night, a building across the street was evacuated when someone smelled gas. People there said a Durham Housing Authority crew came out to fix a leak.
Residents, especially parents, said they don’t feel safe in their homes.
“What can you tell me that would help me feel comfortable letting my kids go to sleep tonight?” asked Shaunkyra Douglas, who lives next door to one of the families who lost a child.
“When they told me her baby passed, it shook a nerve with me,” Douglas said, noting a problem was recently found in her apartment.
“They told me I had a gas leak coming from my hot water heater, and I did not even know,” she said.
A carbon monoxide detector that DHA installed in her apartment has been beeping since Thursday, she said, but no one has come to check on it.
DHA inspected more than 320 units at McDougald Terrace a week ago and replaced or installed 228 carbon monoxide detectors and 417 smoke detectors.
Six apartments had elevated levels of carbon monoxide, and the source of the gas was repaired, authorities said. Another 13 units reported gas leaks, and those also were repaired.
Next door to Douglas’ apartment, a smoke detector sits outside on a window that she says won’t stop going off.
“This is like the third time it happened, and they did nothing about it,” nearby resident Aviana Cox said.
Cox lives in the building that was evacuated Thursday night.
“My mom came home, [and] she says she smelled gas and she called the fire truck people, and they came and they evacuated everybody out of the house,” Cox said, noting that her family tries to spend time out of their McDougald Terrace home when they can to feel safer.