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Winds fuel Grand Rapids apartment fire, displaces almost two dozen families

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Posted at 9:22 PM, Dec 11, 2021

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — A massive apartment fire Saturday displaced almost two dozen families right before the holidays. Grand Rapids firefighters say strong winds fueled the fire. 

Thankfully, everyone got out, but three firefighters are recovering after being injured trying to put it out.

Clarence VanCamp woke up to smoke in his second-floor apartment. So, he frantically went looking for his two cats, but the smoke was just too heavy.

"We absolutely had a pretty terrific day with some significant wind. We have been very taxed. We were at capacity, our chief immediately calling for reinforcements and emergency overtime. We were able to bring in 25 firefighters in rather quickly," Grand Rapids Fire Department Lt. William Smith told FOX 17.

A massive hole is visible from the road of a building at Ridgewood Apartments, which is located a block away from Calvin University's campus.

"We did call for mutual aid, and we are very happy to have the assistance of Kentwood Fire Department to come out," Smith said.

Grand Rapids Fire Department is investigating how this fire started. However, around two dozen families are left wondering what's next for them.

READ MORE: Dozens feared dead as tornadoes, storms strike US states

"I couldn't see even with a light or anything. I literally could not see anything in my apartment. It was insane with how much fog," VanCamp told FOX 17.

He sat there watching his home go up in flames and all he could think about was his two cats stuck inside, VanCamp said.

"I was honestly afraid of the worse…pure panic and adrenaline and not even thinking. I didn't even bother to grab a jacket," VanCamp added.

Thanks to Grand Rapids fighters, they found the two cats safely underneath VanCamp's couch.

"I'm appreciative and thank them for their assistance and their timely arrival," he said.

VanCamp says despite losing his home, he's feeling OK because he has his two cats with him.

"They're family, you know; you treat them like they're your kids. We treat them like our own kids. You care for them and you love them. They are there for you every day," VanCamp said.

VanCamp says he has insurance and is waiting to see what's covered. He says he plans to stay with family on the east side of the state in the meantime. American Red Cross is also helping families displaced by this fire.

READ MORE: Roof of Thornapple Kellogg gymnasium damaged due to high winds

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