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Renters displaced by fire return to homes

Renters displaced by a New Year's Eve fire at Remington Apartments are returning to their homes.

The fire broke out in a bathroom shortly before midnight. A resident described flames shooting out of an exhaust fan that a maintenance worker had delayed repairing.

Tampa Fire Rescue evacuated eight apartments until an electrician could inspect the wiring.

Fire Rescue spokesman Bill Wade estimated the fire caused $40,000 in damage in the apartment where it started. Three families sought housing assistance from the Red Cross.

Remington property manager Anne Montgomery disputed the damage amount Tuesday. She said she was not aware of a work order on the exhaust fan, nor the evacuations. She estimated the repairs to a smoke-damaged wall will cost $1,000. The renter of that apartment is staying in a guest apartment until the work is finished, probably by Friday. "It's just smoke damage," Montgomery said.

Owners and managers of the complex at 10610 N 30th St. were just hit with $15-million in court judgments stemming from the 2001 abduction and shooting of University of South Florida student Lai Chau.

Three assailants abducted Chau after they slipped into the complex by following another resident before the gate closed. They left her for dead near an elementary school after shooting her three times in the head.