More than a year after a Thanksgiving fire ravaged a Monclova Township condominium complex, residents of the 28 units still are trying to rebuild and move home.
The Brandywine condos on Byrnwyck West Road near Salisbury Road, burned in a Nov. 22, 2012, fire that forced residents to evacuate their units as 60 to 70 firefighters battled what the fire chief called the township’s biggest blaze in a decade.
Long after the embers cooled, the nearly 40 residents are still displaced as they try to reach a settlement with State Farm, the condo association’s insurance company.
The site is fenced in, and 20 units have been torn down to the underground garage level. The remaining eight units had some smoke and water damage and are unoccupied.
The wait has taken its toll on residents, who are eager to see construction work start but don’t know when that might happen.
“It’s taken them one year, and I would like to be back in my home next year,” said Jeri Anderson, who lived in her unit for more than two decades.
A year of upheaval began last Thanksgiving when a fire started on the second-floor balcony of one of the units, possibly sparked by the improper disposal of smoking materials, though investigators could not officially determine a cause.
Ms. Anderson had returned home about 7 p.m. from a holiday gathering at her daughter’s house. She retreated to her bedroom but soon was disturbed by a commotion.
When she opened her door, she saw people knocking on doors in the dark and smoky hall warning others to get out of the complex.
She grabbed her coat, handbag, and car keys and fled the building.
From a safe vantage point inside her car, she saw the fire unfold.
“I just sat there shaking and looking and watching,” Ms. Anderson said. “It was like something happening that wasn’t real.”
At first, she stayed with family members but then moved to a furnished apartment in Perrysburg, accommodations that State Farm, through which she also has her own policy, helped arrange.
Now she and other residents, many of whom are elderly, are waiting for work to begin on rebuilding the complex so that they can return home.
The biggest holdup to starting construction is reaching a final settlement with the association’s insurer State Farm, said Sandy Spang, who was elected to Toledo City Council in November and serves on the complex’s building committee on behalf of her mother, who has a unit in the building.
Rebuilding is expected to cost more than $6 million, and insurers committed roughly two-thirds of that amount, she said.
Initially, State Farm brought in a restoration company that indicated the burned complex was 80 percent sound and proposed an estimated $1.5 million worth of work to repair it.
“This was very alarming to many of us because it didn’t take much visually to look at the property and say it looks like a lot more damage than that,” Ms. Spang said.
The association hired Sill Adjustment Co. of Cleveland to assist with its claim. A representative for the company declined to comment, as did the association board’s Toledo attorney Robert Scott.
Among the details to settle is the extent of work to be done on the eight units still standing, Ms. Spang said. Residents said mold and asbestos have been found in those units.
“It’s been a year, and we think that we should have resolution on this, and we think that insurance companies should take care of this claim,” Ms. Spang said.
State Farm spokesman Angie Rinock would not discuss the project’s status, citing “privacy obligations.”
“I can tell you we go to great lengths to determine, and pay, what we owe in a timely manner and we strive to help our customers recover as quickly as possible. State Farm is committed to seeing each claim through to its final resolution as we continue to work with all parties through the remaining aspects of the claim,” she said in a written statement.
Marilyn Kaintz, a condo owner who has moved several times in the year since the fire, is among those ready for resolution. She’s living in an apartment complex in Holland and said the wait has been “disheartening.”
“It’s been long enough, and I think that we’ve been extremely patient,” she said. “I would have thought that they would have this solved by now.”
Condominium owners continue to pay their association dues and taxes, and those with mortgages still are writing checks. Individual owners’ insurance policies covered replacement housing costs for varying lengths of time, and some are no longer receiving money to help with rental costs, said Ms. Spang.
For William Abbey, who remodeled and upgraded his Brandywine unit and then rented it out, the last year has brought uncertainty as he and other owners wait for answers.
“Nobody thought that we’d be here today without much physical progress,” he said, adding that for those owners who also lived in their units, the year has been particularly difficult.
“It’s life changing for anybody, but for them especially I have nothing but compassion,” he said.