Downtown Lapeer residents fear total loss from massive fire
A group of downtown Lapeer residents watched Saturday as firefighters from multiple agencies continued to battle a blaze in their apartment building, fearing all of their belongings had been lost.
The fire in several buildings that contained businesses as well as apartments on West Nepessing Street was reported before 5 a.m. but continued to burn into the afternoon as gusts fanned the flames.
Lapeer Police Detective Sgt. Craig Gormley called the fire "an ongoing battle with flareups."
One firefighter was taken to the hospital. No details were available.
At about 11:45 a.m. wind appeared to rekindle the fire in one of the buildings and a wall of flames shot up with thick, black smoke, drawing groans from several residents gathered in a park across the street.
Hayley Jackson, 22, who lives in an apartment with her 1-month-old daughter, Makenli, mother, Debra Raska, and several cats, put her head in her hands.
"Everything we had was in that apartment," Jackson said.
Jackson said she had male and female cats and six kittens, and was unable to rescue the female and one of the kittens.
Gormley told media at the scene at about 9:45 a.m. that a passing motorist saw smoke and flames and reported the fire at 4:52 a.m. but it could have started earlier.
Gormley said as many as 10 agencies responded to the fire. The street remained blocked to traffic Saturday afternoon.
Businesses in the buildings include Dragon Martial Arts, Lapeer County Vision Center, The Game Shop, BC Comix and Games and Grondin's Hair Center.
Gormley said firefighters made sure people got safely out of the apartments before battling the blaze.
Treg Barck, 38, a lifelong Lapeer resident who has lived downtown about three years, stood outside in his bare feet Saturday morning watching the firefighters.
Barck said his "shirt, shorts and a safe with important stuff in it" were all he was able to take from his apartment.
"I'm pretty bummed," Barck said, choking up. "You've got your whole life in one place and get it all taken away."
Emergency service agencies offered displaced residents hotel rooms, and businesses and volunteers gave them pizza, refreshments and necessities.
When Flanagan's Pub owner Aaron Corneail heard Jackson and her baby were displaced by the fire he brought them two boxes of diapers. Corneail returned later and donated all the money he had in his pockets to those displaced.
Gormley said it's too soon to tell what caused the fire and how much damage the fire, smoke and water have done, but "older, wooden construction makes it worse."