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Black Sand fire

A fire at Black Sand Apartment Homes, 5027 N. 32nd St., caused an estimated $2.5 million damage on Oct. 18. A city investigator believes the blaze was ignited by an improperly discarded cigarette.

The quote from a Lincoln Fire and Rescue investigator on the scene of last week’s Black Sand Apartment fire spoke volumes: “I don’t think I talked to one person who had renter’s insurance.”

So stunning was Fire Investigator Rick Campos’ revelation that it was included in the headline — in full — of the Journal Star’s ongoing coverage online. Seemingly none of the 50-plus residents in the 30-unit building had an insurance policy to cover their belongings.

Most importantly, no people or pets were injured in the Black Sand fire, a fact for which all must be thankful considering the building itself was a total loss. But the financial pain of the displaced residents’ collectively having an estimated $500,000 worth of belongings destroyed by fire should sound the alarm for renters insurance.

We aren't here to push a product onto readers. However, it’s clear more apartment complexes and property managers should require renters insurance from their tenants as a condition of the lease agreement.

Renters whose landlords don’t require a policy should strongly consider purchasing one anyway. Campos compared the monthly cost of a typical policy with that of a pizza. The expense is small, but the potential benefits are enormous.

The advantages are reciprocal for both parties on the low chance disaster strikes — in this case, in the form of a fire caused by an improperly discarded cigarette. Renters can make a claim for the estimated value of their personal belongings if something beyond their control were to damage or destroy them. Conversely, landlords who mandate renters insurance of tenants reduce their risk of being on the hook for costly damage caused by lessees.

Yet, as a State Farm spokesman told the Journal Star, roughly 70 percent of tenants across the country lack renters insurance. A glance at the size of Lincoln’s demographics should hammer home why that number must shrink after the Black Sand fire.

The city had more than 90,000 renters — 41.4 percent of its population — according to the 2010 Census. That number has certainly grown, as Lincoln has added nearly 22,000 residents since then. Lincoln undoubtedly has tens of thousands of people with limited to no recourse to rebuild their lives if some similar catastrophe befell them and their possessions were suddenly, unexpectedly destroyed.

What happened at Black Sand is deeply unfortunate. The loss of a residence and everything in it is something no person should ever have to experience.

Nothing can return what’s been devastated and wrecked by a fire or other disaster. Having an insurance policy to at least recoup some costs to help start again would be a major boost on the long road that awaits those affected by such catastrophes.

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