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No tenants in multiplex house fire had renter's insurance

By Pauleen Le, ple@wkbt.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 05:47:18 AM CST
Updated On: Sep 13 2013 08:17:52 AM CDT

WKBT, News8000.com

LA CROSSE, Wis. -

The six tenants who lost everything in Wednesday's multiplex fire on Wall and Rose streets have a long road ahead before they can get back on their feet.

The La Crosse Fire Department said none of the tenants had renter's insurance.

A big pile of rubble is all that's left of Doug Buchner's multiplex after Wednesday's fire left it in ruins.

“Here's where the kitchen was, and some of the kitchen drawers and stuff,” Buchner pointed out.

In his more than 25 years of experience in renting and renovating properties, he's never seen a fire take it all away so fast.

“It's a sick feeling because you put your heart and soul into something, and you watch it be gone the same day,” said Buchner.

While he has homeowner's insurance, he knows it will be more work for his tenants to recover without renter's insurance.

“I feel for the people, and I hate to see it all come crumbling down when they don't have a chance,” said Buchner.

Thursday, he spent part of the day searching through the rubble for anything that belonged to his tenants -- clothes, pots and pans, even glass dishes that were a family heirloom.

“She was pretty happy that I found them,” said Buchner. “That was one item that she really wanted.”

American Family insurance agent Rita Sanger said going without renter's insurance is a gamble that a lot of people take.

“I think there's some preconceived notion that it's more expensive than it is, but really, it's less than $10 a month for renter's insurance,” said Sanger.

She said it’s a pretty small price to pay for how much help it could provide.

“Not only does it cover their belongings potentially -- their personal property, the clothing, dishes, furniture, appliances (but) the liability is very important,” said Sanger.

Buchner said from now on, he wants to make sure tenants are more aware of its benefits.

“It’s on every application that I give out,” said Buchner. “It's just a question I ask, ‘Do you have renters insurance?’ It’s a yes or no question, but now I need to put on there, ‘You know that you are not covered if you don't have it?’ So that they're aware you could lose all your stuff. It's something that needs to be thought about.”

Buchner said some of his tenants have secured other living locations for the time being. He said while that's one relief, the tenants still need to worry about clothes, food and furniture.

Buchner hopes to rebuild on the property in the future.

As for the child who investigators believe started the fire while playing with a fire, Buchner said he does not know who he is or the woman who was watching him.

He said both were not tenants. He said he has only owned the property for a little more than a year.

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