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Sue Guinn Legg

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Displaced condo residents begin picking up pieces after East 9th fire

August 2nd, 2011 12:12 am by Sue Guinn Legg

Residents of Park View Condominiums displaced by a Friday morning fire that destroyed one of its three units and extensively damaged another were salvaging their possessions Monday as investigators looked for the cause.
“I think we’re all going to be OK. We all had insurance. And the community has been wonderful,” Mary Knowlden, secretary of the condominium owners’ association, said.
Knowlden, whose home sustained the least damage, thanked neighbor Sherry Bowman, who saw the fire and called 9-1-1, and several passing motorists who stopped to knock on doors. “Sherry is the reason my home is still here and the people who were passing by and stopped, I didn’t get any names, if not for them Paul (St. John, the only resident who was home and was sleeping when the fire broke out) would have died. I just can’t tell you how wonderful people are. They’ve offered all kinds of things.”
Knowlden also expressed appreciation to the firefighters who fought the blaze and the emergency responders who came to the firefighters’ aid during their more than hour-long battle to extinguish the fire.
Fire Department Capt. Mark Scott said both of the city’s two fire marshals and a third officer who is assisting with the investigation were working at the condominiums Monday afternoon but had not yet determined the cause. Scott said insurance investigators would also be involved and may coordinate their investigation with the fire marshals. According to Knowlden, four insurance companies, including one that holds a master policy on the condominiums and three renter’s insurance carriers, are handling the owners’ claims.
Service Master cleaning service teams began work about 2:30 Friday afternoon, retrieving sentimental items, including a large collection of comic books the owner feared would be damaged by moisture. “Collectibles are always the hardest things for them to lose,” Service Master Technician Sandra Vanover said. “Today we’re packing out their salvageable possessions and the big furniture that’s going to storage to be cleaned.
“One of the units is not as bad. ... The first one, they say, everything was ruined. None of them are livable. They can’t stay in them,” she said.
According to Knowlden, the residents of the destroyed unit are most distraught over the loss of three pets, two dogs and a cat, that died in the fire. A second cat was burned and is in stable condition at an animal hospital.
She said the owner of one unit is staying temporarily with family while the other unit’s residents, newlyweds who were about to celebrate their first wedding anniversary, “seem to be holding up. Their lease was about to run out so they are looking for a place and the owner of that unit ... will be working with the insurance company to rebuild.”
As for herself and her son Ryan, who was away at Army Reserve training when the fire happened and returned immediately, Knowlden said she’s heard several estimates as to when they will be able to return. “They’ve told me a few weeks. One person told me five or six months on the construction, which is fine with me. I don’t want to be here during all the construction and I’m going to get an apartment.”
But as the owner of four indoor cats, she is having difficulty finding a place. “I need an apartment complex that will let me take four cats,” she said.

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