Firefighter hurt in apartment complex blaze in Sterling Heights
Sterling Heights — Klara Nurce and her family were enjoying Christmas on Wednesday morning at the Sterling Troy Apartments when they were startled by a blaze that tore through a portion of the complex, injuring a firefighter, initially trapping some residents and leaving many unable to return to their homes.
“We were just in our pj’s celebrating Christmas when firefighters evacuated us,” Nurce said.
Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin said the fire began at the apartments on 34400 Dequindre near 15 Mile around 9 a.m. in the middle rear of the complex and extended to the front and through the roof.
“We had a fire that was well advanced when they got here. We’re still investigating but we think we know the cause but are not willing to say,” Martin said. “Several residents were trapped and my guys went in and got them all out, hopefully. We’re still trying to account for everybody.”
Martin said no residents suffered major injuries but some had been trapped along with firefighters.
“One of my firefighters broke his leg and is currently undergoing surgery at Beaumont Hospital,” Martin said. ”Two my other guys got trapped but were able to get out on their own unharmed."
Shuttles took displaced residents to a nearby senior center.
“We need to get them out of the elements,” Martin said Tuesday morning. “There is significant damage. Some apartments are just completely destroyed. We are not sure how many people are displaced at this point, but it’s a lot.”
Black smoke could be seen from 14 Mile and Dequindre. Ten fire trucks and one ambulance closed off Dequindre on Tuesday morning as firefighters battled the fire from the ground and three ladders above.
Koran Williams said she was wakened by neighbors banging on her door screaming about the fire at 9:13 a.m.
“I opened the door and saw the floor was already blackened with black smoke coming towards me,” said Williams, who has lived in the complex for two years. “I called 911 at 9:15 a.m. and I ran out the front and my fiancé stayed back to knock on doors with other neighbors and he made it out. Firefighters said they got everyone out.”
Williams made it out with her coat and slippers and said she was happy that she fell asleep with her engagement ring on.
“I don’t know what started the fire but the smoke was coming from the back,” said Williams, 24. “All I know is that we’re not allowed to have a real Christmas trees in this apartment due to the hazard they could cause if they catch on fire.“
Meanwhile, the American Red Cross launched a temporary shelter at Stevenson High School, where displaced residents could find food and water as well as meet case workers to connect with resources, said disaster relief specialist Tariq Alfanek.
“Our hearts go out to all of families and the community affected by this tragic fire,” said Kimberly Burton, CEO of the Michigan Region of the American Red Cross. “Trained caseworkers will work with each of the residents to help them with their emergency fire caused needs.”
Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed to this report.