More than 80 people were evacuated from their homes early this morning in Oceana County.
A fire destroyed two apartment buildings in Hart.
Hart’s police chief says it’s still far too early to tell what started the fire, but he hopes it won’t be long before investigators can get into what’s left of the building and look around.
Chief Juan Salazar says the call came in at 12:36 Thursday morning.
When first responders arrived at Parkview Manor on East Main Street, they found one of the buildings fully engulfed.
Some of the residents were already outside, like Ron Liebhaber.
Liebhaber has lived in the complex for five years.
“A man from my apartment came into my building and started yelling fire because the fire had just started about then,” he says.
Liebhaber says the neighbor told him there were flames coming out of one of the apartments in building 5.
“And so, everybody knew at that time that they were going to get out of their apartments and do what they had to do,” says Liebhaber.
Most residents were able to walk out of their building, but some had to escape through windows – at least one from the second floor.
Chief Salazar says there were some injuries, none serious, most related to smoke inhalation.
Firefighters were on the scene for most of the day, putting out hot spots and the weather was not cooperative.
“With the weather and whatnot, it did not work on our side,” says Chief Salazar. “There was a lot of issues with the different apparatus that was used.”
We’re told two ladder trucks had problems related to ice and a third truck came south from Pere Marquette Township in Mason County to help.
Hart’s First Baptist Church is already planning a Chirstmas dinner next Wednesday night at 6 – complete with presents for the displaced residents and those who lost everything in the fire.
“We just thought that if we could pull these people together for a meal and show some care and consideration for them, that’d be a great thing,” says Pastor Mark Looman.
The Red Cross was there Thursday morning to help people who lived at the complex.
Of the 81 people displaced by the fire, all but 4 or 5 have been able to find a place to stay with family or friends.
The rest will be staying at nearby motels.
Some residents of the buildings not damaged by the fire have been told they might be able to move back in Thursday night or Friday.
One resident says he has no issues with moving back in.
He says it’s home to him and it’s where he wants to stay.
One resident of the complex says the apartments were equipped with smoke detectors.
The police chief could not say if the buildings had any kind of sprinkler system.