Rockford apartment resident extinguishes fire ignited by others

Posted at 5:19 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 17:19:15-05

ROCKFORD, Mich. – Residents at a Rockford apartment complex have their fellow tenant to thank for the prevention of serious loss last week.

After a resident at the Harvest Hill apartment complex started a fire trying to cook butane hash oil Friday, many others living in the building are growing angry over a careless act that could have led to total destruction.

But thanks to Ben Scholten, that wasn’t the case. Ben was in his apartment with his wife and two young daughters at the time of the explosion. He evacuated his family from the building, and ran back in. Grabbing a fire extinguisher, Ben entered the apartment and put out the flames before they spread to any other room, doing all this minutes before first responders arrived.

“Something clicked inside of me that said, ‘you have to do something,’” said Scholten. “I didn’t think when I went to go do it, ‘who am I saving, who am I helping?’ I didn’t think about that. I knew who I was saving I knew who I was helping, and that’s everybody. And that’s what I wanted to do.”

Though police haven’t released the identity of the man responsible or charges associated with the incident, Ben says it’s unlikely the culprit and his accomplices realize the implications of their actions. Ben said when he entered the apartment with the fire extinguisher, one occupant was sitting on the couch drinking alcohol - Ben had to tell him several times to move. The resident who started the fire had already run out of the building while a third occupant stayed frantic throughout the ordeal.

“The thing I was the most mad about,” said Ben, “is that here I was risking my life, and putting my family in jeopardy for somebody who’s doing that.”

“Why are you not running outside, why are you not protecting somebody, taking initiative, and putting it out? Why am I doing this and I live three doors down? Completely uncaring, oblivious, everything. It was just ridiculous.”

Even despite the inconvenience, neighbors are certainly thankful for Ben’s actions. The explosion and subsequent fire displaced nearly a dozen residents all weekend. Structural engineers were able to clear the apartment for safe living Monday.

At last check, the resident responsible was recovering at an area hospital, but police have not released information on the criminal investigation. But with no serious injuries or long-term losses, Ben and other residents are keeping the glass half full.

“It could’ve been a lot worse,” said Scholten, “and I’m thankful that it wasn’t.”