SCHERERVILLE | “Where are you staying?” “How are you holding up?” “We’re all in this together.”
Residents displaced by last week’s fire at the Lejardin Condominiums greeted each other Monday as they gathered at the complex’s clubhouse Monday for a meeting with property manager Shelly Faber.
The 24-unit building will be restored after the third floor and parts of the second floor are demolished and rebuilt, Faber said. Sprinklers and new technology will be added to the building.
Reconstruction could start by Sept. 1 if the engineering plans and permits are obtained by then, she said. It will be six months to a year before residents can move back in.
Inspections by the state fire marshal and the Schererville Fire Department were completed last week, Faber told residents and their families.
“State Farm, our condo insurance company, and their forensic team went through the building today. They determined lightning struck the building or close to it to cause the fire,” she said.
Engineers also inspected the building Monday to determine if it is structurally sound so residents can go back in with staff over the next two days to retrieve personal belongings such as jewelry and photo albums. By the end of the week, the displaced residents will be asked what else they want salvaged from their condominiums, including furnishings.
Five units on the second and third floor were destroyed. Many of the others suffered smoke and water damage.
Faber suggested residents ask questions of their insurance agents and take photos of their units when they retrieve their belongings.
Firefighters from 11 Northwest Indiana fire departments fought the blaze Thursday for more than six hours after the first alarm was sounded about 3 p.m.
Schererville Fire Chief Joe Kruzan said last week the fire caused the building’s water pipes to burst. The third floor was destroyed, the second floor partially damaged and the first floor had smoke and water damage.
Smoke began to clear at 7 p.m., but after 7:30 p.m., strong winds fanned hot spots, causing the third floor to again become engulfed in flames. Kruzan said the fire was officially out by 9 p.m.
All the building’s residents who were home during the fire were evacuated safely. One person was trapped in the elevator in another building when NIPSCO shut off power to nearby buildings during the fire. Officials were able to rescue that person, who was unharmed.
The building’s 31 residents were displaced, Faber said. The fire did not spread to any of the other buildings in the complex. Lejardin Condominiums has five buildings and about 250 residents.
Residents agreed to continue meeting at 7 p.m. Monday until all the details of insurance and restoration are completed.