Customers Seek Answers After Fire Guts Storage Units

When fire broke out at a Park City, Illinois Public Storage nearly two years ago, it made headlines. It took dozens of firefighters to douse flames that damaged 35 storage units.

One of those units was rented by Sally Gudbrandsen. The Lake Forest woman says she never thought twice about filling it with the contents of her four bedroom home.

"I had a lot of books, I had a lot of artwork, a lot of music," Gudbrandsen recalls.

A similar scenario for Julie Jacobs, a Lake Bluff nurse who also had things stored in a unit damaged by the fire.

"There were a lot of antiques, there were marble tables, Waterford linens," Jacobs says.

News of the fire came in the form of an email. Attached to it was a waiver allowing Public Storage to dispose of damaged goods. Jacobs and Gudbrandsen say they never signed that form. Instead, they asked Public Storage when they could come sort through their things. But by the time the company gave them access, the women say their possessions were long gone.

"There was nothing. There was nothing in my unit," Gudbrandsen says. " And there's nothing in the aisle. And I'm saying where's my stuff?"

Missing stuff is a common theme when it comes to angry Public Storage customers, nationwide: complaints online in the last two months blast the company, including multiple cases where customers say their items were auctioned off with no notice.

Attorney Terry Goggin says he's not surprised. "If you're a day late or a dollar short, BOOM. They auction off your goods."

Goggin has gone up against Public Storage in court several times. He says the company exhibited complete indifference to the customers' losses.

"We've had clients that would accept an apology if they got it, and they'd go away. There would have never been a case if there had been an apology."

The fire in Park City is just the latest in a string of Public Storage fires across the country, including Virginia, California, Florida, Indiana and Missouri. In the Park City case, NBC 5 Investigates obtained photos from first responders that show while some belongings were heavily damaged, others were not -- including some that customers say disappeared with an explanation.

"I called and called and called and got nowhere," Jacobs says.

After dozens of calls, Jacobs and Gudbrandsen say Public Storage finally revealed the whereabouts of their property - dumped without their permission, at three different landfills.

"I was beside myself," Gudbrandsen recalls, "what were they thinking? How could they do this?" "I was livid! But what could I do?" Jacobs said.

No help. No apology. No surprise to Goggin. "It's going to take a lot more verdicts. It's going to have to hurt them on the pocket book or they're not going to change."

Jacobs got $50,000 back from her estimated $185,000 loss because she had renter's insurance - which the company contract does recommend. Gudbrandsen has yet to collect on her $150,000 loss.

Public Storage did not return our repeated calls for comment.

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