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Fire Destroys Bayside Home; Everyone Escapes Safely

At least six area fire departments and four local police departments assisted in putting out a fire that completely consumed a home in the 9000 block of Rexleigh Drive.

A Bayside home was destroyed in a Thursday afternoon fire that took at least six fire departments more than three hours to bring under control.

Nobody was injured in the blaze, which broke out around 1 p.m. in the single-story home at 9141 N. Rexleigh Drive, near and .

The initially responded after the homeowner called 911 after she heard crackling, and got out of the house.

The smoke from the blaze was visible from far beyond the borders of Bayside and forced police to block off at least four arterial streets through the village, including Regent Road, Ellsworth Lane, Fairy Chasm Road and Rexleigh Drive.

At 3 p.m., the fire had been reduced to what North Shore Fire Department Chief Robert Whitaker called "hot spots," small areas that may still have flames or where there are still hot embers. However, the roof had collapsed and the entire of the home, which was part brick and part siding, was charred and destroyed.

Three people and their dog were inside the home when the fire started fire — Irv Kahn, 84; Joyce Kahn, 78; their caretaker; and their dog Cassie.

Gila Katz, the couple's great-niece, the Katzes built that home in 1959 and had lived there ever since.

As the family sat in the driveway across the street with paramedics, firefighters continued to fight the blaze that was stretching through the entire house.

"They (firefighters) attempted to make an interior attack on the fire and were forced back," Whitaker said. "It's a longer, one-story home, so we had heavy fire in the attic. The fire was tough to get at because we had to come out of the building and we weren't able to access the attic from an exterior standpoint. So we attempted to knock it down from the outside, but we had heavy fire involvement upon arrival."

Whitaker said there were a total of six fire engines, three ladder companies, four ambulances, several chief officers and six water tenders helping fight this fire. Because areas of Bayside do not have fire hydrants, water had to be trucked in to fight the blaze.

"We have tankers on our fleet, but any large-size fire we need to bring in help from other communities," he said. However, when asked if having fire hydrants throughout the village would have saved this home, Whitaker said he doesn't think so.

A Glendale couple said they were shopping at when they saw the smoke and drove over to see what was going on. They said this is especially scary for them because they have a home very similar to this one.

"The problem is the fact that they don't have water and that made us think about where we live," Robin Cohn said.

"There's a hydrant right down our block, so we're happy," added Fred Cohn.

The initial damage estimate for the structure and the contents of the home is about $350,000, the NSFD said. No smoke detectors were sounding when firefighters arrived, but officials are unsure whether the home had any detectors.

Firefighters are still investigating the cause of the fire, however, the homeowner who called 911 to report the fire said it started in the back of the house.

CLD April 12, 2012 at 08:28 PM
Thank goodness the residents are alright! How terrible to be forced to watch your home burn to the ground as firefighters do their best to put out the fire with tanks of water. As a longtime Bayside resident, it is frightening to think that I pay incredible taxes for the privileged of living here and yet one of the public services I don't have is city water or fire hydrants. It might be a good idea for all Bayside residents to make sure their insurance policies are up to date.
joe baldwin April 12, 2012 at 10:26 PM
I'm so sick of people complaining about the taxes. If you don't like them, move. If you want fire hydrants, you'll get higher taxes. I'm sure this couples insurance policy will take very good care of them. Most people make out great. They can get a brand new home worth much more than it did prior to the fire.
Jay Sykes April 12, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Curious, two houses in two days that are a total loss in the North Shore. http://foxpoint.patch.com/articles/early-morning-house-fire-causes-estimated-100k-in-damage
Sarah Worthman April 13, 2012 at 04:30 PM
@Mamacita, that was the main topic people standing by were talking about yesterday - municipal water. I guess, from what I hear, it's come up before however, it would be a pretty big investment and a lot of work to get them up and running.
J Step April 13, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Obviously, you've never worked with an insurance company if you think they are going to walk away "mak(ing) out great". They will be lucky to get 2/3rds of what they had it insured for, not to mention the loss of contents. Plus it will probably take years to get a settlement check. That's the reality of working with an insurance company with a claim of this magnitude. The monetary part really is beside the point. THEY LOST THEIR HOME OF OVER 50 YEARS! They lost their photos & family heirlooms. They lost everything they owed. Have a little compassion & sympathy why don't you!
Jay Sykes April 13, 2012 at 07:03 PM
About 1/4 of Bayside has municipal water. I think it's the area east of the RR tracks, west of Lake and south of Brown Deer. Might be some along Port too, as they laid main out to Mequon, as far as St Mary's.
Jackie Zigan April 25, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Excuse me you jerk but that was my family's home. I'd like you to spend one hour with my mother and I while we try to even begin to list the irreplaceable items that have been lost. Yes insurance will replace some furniture and dishes but not the loss of heirlooms, pictures, records and our entire family's sense of security. I truly hope the karma gods give you what you have coming. I've never been so fumed by some idiots inane and hurtful words.

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