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Residents mourn losses from fire at North Naples apartments

NORTH NAPLES, Fla. Judelise Forges had everything ready in her apartment to welcome the birth of her first daughter.

Then came Monday’s fire that destroyed her home.

“I’m all cried out,” Forges said. “I don’t have any more cry in me, so I’m just letting things go one day at a time.”

Forges is one of 47 residents displaced after the blaze destroyed a building at Bear Creek Apartments on 2367 Bear Creek Drive. The flames broke out when contractors who were welding set a pillar on fire, the North Collier Fire Rescue District said.

The contractors didn’t know the fire spread to the attic. Residents smelled smoke for an hour, but no one called 911 until fire shot through the roof.

“I heard banging on the door and the maintenance man was screaming, ‘Get out, get out, there’s a fire!'” Forges’ son Izaiah said. “As soon as I got out, I saw stuff fall from the roof.”

Two firefighters were trapped in the building as the roof partially collapsed. One of them was hospitalized but is expected to be OK.

Judelise Forges and her two sons are staying with a friend, but they face a daunting task to get their lives back in order.

“I’m due in one month. Everything was ready, and it’s just gone,” she said. “I had everything. I mean I’m about to pop anytime.”

The Forges lost family photos and the memories and the belongings they built during their year in the apartment. Neighbor Elvis Rodriguez and his roommates lived in their unit for eight years and had just signed up for a ninth.

“We just paid the rent,” he said. “We just renewed the contract for the lease.”

But all was not lost for the dozens who began the search for new homes Tuesday. Firefighters deemed it too dangerous to allow residents to comb through the remnants of the building for any belongings that survived the fire, but they used technology to overcome that.

North Collier Fire Rescue District Chief Jorge Aguilera helped residents use FaceTime to communicate with firefighters who did the rummaging through crumbled wood, scorched couches and broken coffee tables for whatever salvageable vestiges could be found.

“It’s good I got something back,” Rodriguez said. “[I] didn’t lose everything.”

 

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