Brown Deer apartment fire, tenants must be out by Friday

Some tenants at Brown Deer's River Place Apartments must be out by Friday, Aug. 26, the North Shore Fire Marshal said, after a fire Saturday led to a partial roof collapse and left about 100 displaced.

Residents Tuesday scrambled for movers, worked to get their furniture out and, of course, find a place to live. 

North Shore Fire/Rescue officials said it's believed lightning hit the building, sparking the fire, but the official cause is under investigation.  

Brown Deer fire, River Place Apartments (Courtesy: Brenda Knight)

"Hi. My name is Sue Derfel, and I have been here for 31 wonderful years," said Derfel, 85. "It’s just so calm and peaceful back here. I love it."

That all changed Saturday afternoon when a storm rolled in. 

"The lightning hit the new smoke detector box," said Derfel. 

Derfel said she's worried about saying goodbye to her place of serenity, along with residents in 42 other apartments.

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

Sue Derfel

Little notice to vacate left many feeling stressed out.

"All of us are like, ‘What?’" said Samantha Brandt. "That gives us no time, and I won’t be able to get a lot of things out in time."

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

"I'm staying with family but not forever," said Brandt.

The American Red Cross, Goodwill and North Shore Fire/Rescue scheduled a "multi-agency resource center (MARC)" for Thursday at Brown Deer Elementary School to provide resources for people forced out of their homes.

Closing a chapter after 31 years, Derfel said she's focused on what really matters.

"Nobody was hurt," said Derfel. "That’s almost a miracle"

The nonprofit Brown Deer Foundation set up a fund for the families affected. You can make a donation at any Tri City National Bank.