Apartment owner seeks help in arson investigation

CREATED Feb. 16, 2013

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RACINE - The owner of a Racine apartment complex now the center of an arson investigation is speaking out, asking for help.

Jemarro Dantzler bought the the building on Jacato Drive as an investment property. It was his first run as a landlord. That was just seven months ago.

Now it sits dark, empty and boarded up.

Inside, it's destroyed.

"I was totally devastated."

Dantzler spoke about the loss for the first time with TODAY'S TMJ4.

He and his wife were at home watching T.V.. when they got the call.

"When I got there the entire roof of the building was just gone."

Someone set the building on fire last month.

"Initially you're thinking is everybody out. Is everybody OK?"

Flames were seen at least 20 feet high.

11 families rushed to get out after hearing fire alarms blaring.

"We don't know who it was that was running through the building yelling 'Get out, get out! The building is on fire!' But whoever that was, we're thankful for them. We're thankful for that angel running through there. It saved a lot of families," said Dantzler.

Investigators say the fire is arson. But they're struggling to pin down a suspect. A reward is now up to six thousand dollars, hoping it will lead to answers. Dantzler hopes so too.

"We invested a lot of money into this. Very very frustrating on our end. Very frustrating on the tenants end. They don't know what to do and they're calling me and I don't know what to tell them either."

Most tenants there were low-income and don't have renters insurance. Dantzler required it for rental and even lowered rent for some to allow for the insurance cost, but they didn't follow through.

He begs anyone with information about the fire to step forward.

"There have been some people who have come forward and noticed some things going on..some vandalism in the building so people are talking."

And he has a message for other landlords.

"Take the time to make sure your building is fire safe, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers."

Dantzler tells us he did have all his fire equipment newly installed which may have helped save lives.

The 11 families have all been placed in other apartment complexes.

Anyone with information is asked to call Racine Police.