Displaced by apartment fire, upset Miami Gardens residents seek answers

MIAMI – It’s been five days since a fire ripped through an apartment building in Miami Gardens and questions remain.

One of them is why are the residents saying they paid for the insurance? When the building didn’t have one, according to the property manager.

Some of the homeowners have hired an attorney who says there have been some serious violations of the law, possibly even criminal ones.

One thing is for sure, the road to recovery seems long and uncertain.

On Wednesday night, CBS4 learned that several homeowners will go to the DA’s first thing in the morning.

Many were upset and concerned that the building was uninsured.

“We believe there have been serious violations of the law,” said Raul Gastesi, an attorney representing several owners of the New World Condo Apartments in Miami Gardens.

He’s looking for answers.

Documents obtained by CBS4 show residents paid $120,000 for insurance last year, which is expected to pay $220,000 this year. However, the property manager said the building was not insured.

Seeking remedy, an emergency application to appoint a receiver was made through the Condonmium Association on Wednesday night.

“The receiver has the approval of the court and can get people to provide certain documents,” Gastesi added.

Paperwork like this letter, which was provided to residents last May and revealed the building failed its 40-year recertification inspection.

“I think they’ve been failing to get recertification for a while,” Gastesi said.

CBS4 continues to investigate how many years have passed since it passed the last inspection and was left without insurance. As we comb through documents, families like William Mora are staying at a Red Cross shelter in Miami Gardens.

“Making the best of a bad situation,” Mora said.

Mora is one of nearly 200 people displaced by the fire. He tries to make the experience easier for his young son.

“I told him we were going camping, more fun for him,” More added. “He got a soccer ball yesterday.”

And they were even able to save some of his favorite toys.

“They get all the toys because there’s a lot,” Mora’s son said. “I have more toys in the car.”

And Dad says he’s back to school.

When things might return to normal for people living out of their cars and in emergency shelters is unknown.

“That could be a long-term problem for these people,” Gestesi added. “They lost everything they had. You really feel for them.”

William Mora shared that shelter residents have been warned of scammers attempting to take advantage of them tonight.

A difficult situation with many unanswered questions about how the fire started and why this building was not insured.

Over the weekend, residents of the New World Condo Apartments on Northwest 177th Street said what started as a small fire in one unit quickly spread through the second floor and eventually engulfed a large portion of the building.

According to the Miami-Dade Fire Rescue, the fire started in one of the units on the second floor, but due to the windy conditions, the fire spread quickly. Part of the roof of the building collapsed.

Residents panicked, with some jumping out of windows to escape.

Shenell Walker, who had lost practically everything, said: “I walked outside to the end of the building and looked up and that’s when I saw the fire coming out of the building and I finally understood what they were saying. They said call 911 and I went back and told my kids there was a fire and we all ran outside and everyone was trying to get everyone out of the building.”

At least 75 units were affected by the fire, about half of them were destroyed and at least 105 people were displaced.

No dead or injured were reported.

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