A small fire revealed a big problem at a historic Hoquiam apartment building and now 62 residents are homeless.

Emerson Manor is one of Hoquiam's most prominent buildings. There is no visible damage to the building from a fire last Thursday.

But when hotel staff accidentally reactivated the fire sprinklers after last week's fire the hallways flowed with a suspicious colored water.

Tests showed a very high level of fecal bacteria and airborne germs that could infect the lungs of the residents who are already receiving assistance for chronic health problems.

County health officials ordered everyone out. Most of them left with just a few items and the shirts on their backs.

The Immanuel Baptist Church and relief groups have set up most of the residents in hotels and others are with friend or family, but the future of the building is uncertain.

The church and several groups including the Red Cross are on the case, but the future of the building remains uncertain. Some of the walls may have to be torn out to look for the source of bacteria and see if there is mold growing. During that process they may find asbestos, which has to be removed once it's disturbed, a process that could take months.

Anchor Bank branches are accepting monetary donations for the displaced residents. One of the branches happens to be in the lobby of the evacuated building.

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