Grease fire ignites blaze at Emmett Township apartment complex

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EMMETT TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A midnight meal sparked a raging fire in Calhoun County. Fire crews from all over southwest Michigan responded to a fire at Lakeside Apartments at 1 o'clock Tuesday morning that destroyed 12 units. Residents say it all began with a grease fire when someone was trying to cook fried chicken.

“My roommate was cooking,” said resident Patrick McCreary who was sleeping on a chair when the fire began in his home. “And then all of sudden I hear yelling ‘Fire, Fire.’”

McCreary said that his roommate was on fire and tried to put out the flames using a towel. The constant batting caused flames to fly and light other things in the apartment. Once they saw the fire escalating, they scrambled to find their two dogs.

“I just drop down to the ground started crawling and under the table by the door there was Smokey,” said McCreary of his four-month-old pup. “I grabbed him by his collar, and by his neck, grabbed him in my arms. Made it out the door.”

McCreary said inside the house, there was too much smoke to locate the other dog Lucy. Unfortunately, she died in the fire. When they exited their home, Smokey dashed into the woods nearby. They're currently looking for him. When people were calling for Smokey, Jesse Gillum looked outside to see what was going on.

“There’s like people outside, lots of people,” said Gillum who heard a loud commotion outside. “So I open the window like whats going on. And I here ‘Smokey Bear, Smokey Bear. Fire, you gotta go.’”

His cousin, and his roommate, opened the door and was greeted by a thick gust of black smoke. They grabbed their things and battled the smoke to get outside.

“I had to breathe into smoke trying to go down even just to get to the bottom floor,” said Gillum. “You’re breathing in thick, thick smoke. Finally I got outside and we had this little cough you know and we were just looking up just in awe at what was going on.”

Gillum, 19, says before the fire he was feeling “super ecstatic” about life. He was making good money and just moved into the apartment with his cousin. He recently purchased a new TV and on the day of the fire bought a new couch. But now everything’s gone.

“It seems like every year we have one or two of these larger apartment complex fires,” said Daryl Herrmann, the lead disaster services volunteer with the American Red Cross. “They’re very stressful not only for the residents because sometimes it’s very difficult to find another apartment immediately, that's ready.”

Herrmann said that residents affected by the fire were encouraged to meet with the Red Cross regardless of whether or not they had renter’s insurance. They provided them with monetary assistance to help them get food, clothing and a warm place to stay.

“Red Cross, they’re doing good. Its a great company here,” said Gillum. “There is someone there to help you after something like this happens.”

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