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Investigators work to find cause of White Oaks fire

Posted at 5:25 PM, Apr 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-01 22:58:27-04

Days after the White Oaks fire destroyed 62 apartment units, residents like Pardeep are still in shock. To see his home charred by the blaze is gut-wrenching.

"I came here to see if I can see inside my apartment. If there's anything left," said Pardeep.

North Shore Fire Chief Robert Whitaker said the blaze was the biggest fire of his career. One of the many reasons why the fire spread quickly was because the building didn't have a sprinkler system except in their underground garage. Whitaker said when crews arrived on the scene their main focus was getting people out safely. Fourteen people had to be rescued from the balconies.

"We had a fire that extended really fast. We had put all our resources in rescuing people out of the building and balconies which basically means we put fighting the fire on hold to do that. So not only did it have a head start, it even grew quicker," said Whitaker.

Whitaker said seeing the amount of devastation the fire caused has taken an emotional toll of the firefighters but helping residents recover some of their precious items and mementos is their way to help bring normalcy to the resident's lives.

"The life safety side is a win. The damage is not. We spent a lot of time here the last 48 hours and you see the devastation this puts in people’s lives and that really hits our people hard. To see that we can help recover in any way shape or form of belongings or knowing there ok mentally, that puts a sense of hope in what we do and a sense of value in what we do," said Whitaker.

Over at St. Eugene Congregation where the Red Cross is stationed, the donations are still coming in. Justin Kern Regional Chef Communications Officer for Red Cross said they are at capacity for physical donations.

"The outpouring of generosity from the community has really helped." "As far as physical donations, we are good. There are plenty of clothes and food all those basics we really have a lot of that taken care of but people can, of course, donate financially," said Kern.

Brian Kennedy Owner of Kurt Schulz Deli stopped by the shelter to provide food for the volunteers and residents.

"My friend Dave Solebman called me up and said, hey there is this incredible fire that displaced a lot of people. My wife and I owned a house that a family lived in and we had a fire there three or four years ago and we saw what the Red Cross did for them and they really did help the family that was living at the house. So I just wanted to do anything to help them out and help the families that are displaced," said Kennedy.

A multi-agency resource center (MARC) will be opened for those displaced by this fire to cover various available resources from nonprofit, government and other organizations.

Residents are invited to come to the MARC from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 3 at St. Eugene's (7600 N. Port Washington Road).

The cause of the fire is not considered suspicious but is undetermined.

To donate to the Red Cross and help the victims, click here.