Brown Deer apartment fire, tenants must be out by Friday

Some tenants of Brown Deer’s River Place apartments must be out by Friday August 26, the North Shore fire marshal said, after a fire on Saturday caused a partial roof collapse and left about 100 people displaced.

On Tuesday, residents scrambled to find movers, worked to get their furniture out and, of course, find accommodation.

North Shore Fire and Rescue officials said lightning struck the building, starting the blaze, but the official cause is under investigation.

Brown Deer Fire, River Place Apartments (Courtesy Brenda Knight)

“Hi. My name is Sue Derfel and I’ve been here for 31 wonderful years,” said Derfel, 85. “It’s so quiet and peaceful here. I love it.”

Everything changed on Saturday afternoon when a storm hit.

“Lightning struck the new smoke detector housing,” Derfel said.

Derfel said she dreaded saying goodbye to her place of serenity, along with residents of 42 other apartments.

“The thought at my age, the thought of leaving and starting somewhere else…” Derfel said.

A short notice of departure left many people stressed.

“We’re all like, ‘What?'” Samantha Brandt said. “That doesn’t leave us time, and I won’t be able to get a lot out in time.”

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A spokesperson for the apartment complex said 42 of the 110 units will be unavailable for six to eight months. They offer security deposit refunds.

“I stay with my family but not forever,” Brandt said.

The American Red Cross, Goodwill, and North Shore Fire/Rescue planned a “Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC)” at Brown Deer Elementary School on Thursday to provide resources for those evicted from their homes.

Closing a chapter after 31 years, Derfel said she is focusing on what really matters.

“No one was hurt,” Derfel said. “It’s almost a miracle”

The nonprofit Brown Deer Foundation has established a fund for affected families. You can donate at any national bank in Tri City.

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