Apartment Fire Victims Return To Salvage What's Left

Those who used to live at the Hillsborough Pointe Apartments in northwest Omaha spent Friday searching for what's left after a fire ripped through their building Thursday morning.

Tom Kawa had about 30 minutes Friday to grab what he could from his first-floor apartment. “Soggy, wet. you can hardly walk through the carpet. Then everything, it's just soiled, it's gone." He said the reality of what happened was just starting to sink in. “You're just numb, you just didn't think about it and then just everybody comes up and helping you, giving you money. It's just unbelievable."

First-floor residents as well as a few on the second floor were allowed to go in one by one with hard hats on to get what they could. Apartment management is providing displaced residents with another apartment if they want one.

The manager of the property says the state fire marshal's preliminary report says an improperly disposed of cigarette led to the fire. That cigarette, which costs about 25 cents, led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.

Property manager Shawn Knudsen also said the fire started on a second-floor deck. "If the fire started in the apartment, the sprinklers, everything else would have put it out very fast and it would have been solved. Unfortunately, being on a patio it spread, started on a patio, worked its way up through the Soffit and into the attic."

For now, Kawa is moving into another apartment in the complex while he tries to decide what to do next.

Knudsen said nearly everyone who was displaced from the fire had renter's insurance. He said they require proof of renter's insurance before allowing tenants to move in.

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