HomeNewsResidents unable to return home after Fox Chase fire

Residents unable to return home after Fox Chase fire

George Tomezsko, a resident of the Pine Views Condominium in Fox Chase, points to his kitchen that was heavily damaged by a fire on Jan. 30.

Residents of a Fox Chase condominium building hit by a Jan. 30 fire are wondering when they’ll be able to go home. They might not return soon. Why is kind of a complicated story.

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George Tomezsko, a resident of the Pine Views Condominium, said June 4 that the occupants of the 40 units in the building off Verree Road have had to find other places to live while the condo’s homeowners association negotiated a settlement with its insurer. Some are staying with friends or family. Others, like himself, are paying to live elsewhere with funds supplied by their homeowners insurance policies.

But that money is running out for some residents, and repair work is proceeding slowly, he said.

Progress is a function of getting dollars from the condominium’s insurance company. Denise Collins, president of the Village of Pine Valley Homeowners Association, said the organization retained an adjuster to negotiate a settlement with its insurer. A partial settlement was paid early this month, according to both Collins and Tomezsko.

While they’ve been unable to live in their homes, residents have been required to pay their monthly condo fees, said Tomezsko. For him, that fee is more than $200 a month even though he’s been paying $2,600 a month to live elsewhere. So far, he has not paid it, he said.

The Pine View Condominium building is part of the “over 55” Pine Valley community off of Pennypack Park and behind CORA Services at Verree and Susquehanna. It is managed by Holy Redeemer Health Systems, which was hired by the homeowner’s association, said Collins.

Residents got a few minutes the day after the Jan. 30 fire to take what they could and leave, Tomezsko said. He added that since they left, some residents have complained that jewelry and other items were stolen from their units. To test those stories, Tomezsko said he put a watch he didn’t value much out on a counter in February. It wasn’t there when he checked on it next.

At the end of last month, he said, he and some other residents met with an attorney to explore the possibility of legal action.

NOT THE FIRST FIRE

The fire on Jan. 30 was the second in the condo building in about five months, Tomezsko said. He said a lightning strike Sept. 2 sparked a blaze in the building’s attic and that damaged a fourth-floor unit and three others. Work was being done on those units when another fire began Jan. 30.

Deputy Fire Chief Harry Bannon, the city’s fire marshal, said the Sept. 2 blaze was, indeed, caused by lightning. The Jan. 30 fire was caused by smoking, Bannon said. That blaze began in the balcony of the fourth-floor unit of 200 Ernest Way — the same that was the first to be damaged in the Sept. 2 fire. Repairs to that unit and the three others damaged in the September fire were almost complete, Collins said during a June 6 phone interview.

Repairs, she said, “were a week or two from completion.”

LONG PROCESS

The Jan. 30 fire caused a lot of damage, most of it from water, which came from both the building’s sprinkler system and from firefighters.

The first thing that had to be done, Collins said, was “dry out the building.”

That step was time-consuming, she said, because workers used large fans to blow in air to the building and vent it.

“It was unbelievable,” Collins said.

As the building’s insurance company has released money, she said, “We’re doing work.”

Delay in the process is due to the fact that the insurance company has been slow to release funds.

“No one is happy with the progress,” she said.

If there is a lesson in the condo owner’s plight, it’s that it is important to get insurance with good coverage that will provide cash to live elsewhere in an emergency. Tomezsko said his insurer provided him with some cash, but it’s finite. He said one of his neighbors has such good coverage that there is no limit to the time she can expect to have her expenses covered.

Another point, Collins said, is that it was a smart move for the homeowners association to hire an adjuster. Anyone might see walls that need to be repainted or rugs that need to be replaced, she said, but a professional adjuster understands “things you can’t see” and works to get the money to address those issues. ••

Most of the condos have significant damage.

There was over $4 million worth of fire and water damage, and repair work is proceeding slowly. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

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