Suspected arson leaves more than 100 people displaced, some unsure of next steps

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The entrances to the Franklin Arms apartment complex are now boarded up as Milwaukee police and fire departments continue to investigate what is believed to be arson.

MPD says a 19-year-old was arrested after allegedly setting fire to the complex Sunday morning, forcing people to evacuate and be left without a home the day after Christmas. Nobody was injured.

"There's no good time of year for this kind of incident, of course," explained Justin Kern, communications director with American Red Cross. "I think that the main thing will be the days ahead here, to identify a brighter tomorrow. Find that silver lining and find people places to go, whether it's back in that building or whatever their next steps might be."

Adam McCarthy owns Smart Asset Realty, the company that manages the apartment complex. He says the decision to vacate the entire complex was made by the police and fire departments after the water and power was shut off as a result of the fire. McCarthy says he and his team won't be able to assess any damage to the building and make a decision on its future until after the arson investigation is complete.

"The smoke travel is one of the biggest concerns we have with the fire," McCarthy explained. "We have to make sure the conditions are livable, and if not, the insurance company will have to acknowledge that and we'll have to do renovations on any unit that has smoke and water issues."

In the meantime, McCarthy says he has a dedicated member of his team available to assist tenants with retrieving any personal belongings that were left behind and says that Smart Asset will be assisting people with finding a new place to stay.

"Trying to give everybody the best options for what they have going on," McCarthy said. "We're working with people on finding them other permanent locations with the vacancies the management company has to offer."

According to Kern, around 20 people utilized the Red Cross' temporary shelter set up at Alverno College Sunday night. That includes 24-year-old Tyrone Keith, who says he's not sure where his next home will be.

"I was homeless already for five years. I don't want to be homeless no more," Keith said. "Just seeing everybody have to get their things and move out to the street and not knowing where to go was a big problem for me."

Kern said the Red Cross is working with the city and property manager to address what the next steps for people like Keith will be, adding that resources will be provided until a more permanent solution is figured out.

"The doors are open here if other people hit a wall, find somewhere else they need to stay from that incident," Kern said. "It is a little too early to tell on that recovery side of things but I know our folks are here and we'll begin conversations on that as soon as it's appropriate."

Kern went on to praise the volunteers who responded to numerous fires over the holiday weekend, encouraging anyone else who might be interested in joining the team to seek more information at https://www.redcross.org/.





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