Brown Deer apartment fire displaces about 100, ‘frustrating, upsetting’

Work began Sunday, Aug. 21 at the River Place Apartments in Brown Deer after a fire Saturday left about 100 displaced. Renters were allowed back in for a short time on Sunday.

For so many, the fire brought what really matters into perspective. The renters from 40 units said Sunday they're not sure if or when they'll be able to move back in, but they said they're grateful for what they do have.

As smoke alarms sounded inside, boxes quickly filled SUVs outside. Sunday was moving day for Kristopher Strach and his family.

"It is very frustrating and upsetting," said Strach. 

It didn't happen as he'd planned.

"Well, for me, I just feel a little bit empty inside," said Strach. 

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The fire happened a little more than a month from when the Strachs planned to move into a new home in Belgium – forcing them out of their current home sooner than expected.

"We do have some smoke damage," said Strach. "We also have a significant amount of flooding. I'd say all of our furniture is destroyed at this point."

North Shore Fire/Rescue officials said of the 42 impacted units, only 10 had fire damage. The American Red Cross estimated 110 people were displaced, so the nonprofit opened a shelter at Brown Deer Elementary School.

"Certainly, we're here if anybody needs somewhere to go, needs the food and that kind of essential stuff right now," said Justin Kern, Red Cross spokesman. 

Back at the apartment complex, Strach said he's happy to have saved a few of his family's things, but he said what's most important is that no one was hurt.

"We're all here. We're all safe," said Strach. "That's something to be grateful for."

The Red Cross plans to keep the shelter open for at least the next week. Kern said they don't need physical donations and will share more details soon on how to help families suddenly out of their home.