Walker fire chief: Cigarette possibly sparked apartment complex fire

Posted at 4:44 PM, Jun 27, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-27 19:31:58-04

WALKER, Mich. -- Walker Fire Department Chief Robert Walker says the investigation into the Orchards Apartment complex fire continues, though at this point he believes a cigarette may have sparked the fire.

Heavy winds Monday around 5 p.m. carried the flames throughout the complex at 936 4 Mile Rd. NW, when 48 apartments were evacuated, 18 of which were destroyed. Chief Walker tells FOX 17 the fire started on a west end deck and estimates damage upwards of $500,000.

Tuesday, less than two miles away, comradery too survived the fire at the American Red Cross shelter. Residents talked with each other just as a hot lunch was delivered at Orchard Hills Reformed Church.

"We both just found out that we're veterans," one resident said, "so we've kind of bonded a little bit over this whole situation."

"Yeah, Air Force and Marine Corps, we all get along," laughed Dan Stuck, another resident displaced by the fire.

Red Cross officials say about 120 people are displaced from the fire, eight people stayed overnight at the shelter.

"God is on my side," Stuck said with another hearty laugh. "I am blessed to say I am going to be going home and when it’s ready, and if it’s not tonight it’s tomorrow.”

Nilei Isom, also displaced by the fire, held her shaking cat thankful the shelter made an exception to keep their cat beside their family overnight.

"It uproots everything, we’re wearing the same clothes for two days," said Isom.

"I’ve known about the Red Cross, we all have probably for most of our lives, you see it on TV but you never think it’s going to happen to you and [the Red Cross] they’re great.”

Residents like Isom and Stuck are hopeful to return to their apartments by Wednesday once their power is restored. Though Chief Walker says it'll be a couple more days before others can return due to debris like glass, wires and metals throughout the building.

"The minute we went outside you could see the flames, everybody was standing outside," recalled Isom.

"A few people were crying talking to the people who were basically in that unit. Couple guys had just moved in, they said they didn’t have renter’s insurance. You know your heart goes out to them, young guys, and people out there with just shorts and tops, no socks, no shoes."

Organizers say the shelter should stay open based on need possibly through Wednesday morning.