GAINES TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) - Twelve apartment units were affected after a grease fire sparked inside a kitchen at a Kent County complex, sending four tenants and six Kent County sheriff's deputies to the hospital for smoke inhalation.
They were later treated and released.
Firefighters from several departments, as well as deputies, were dispatched around 1 a.m. Monday to Woodfield Apartments on Woodfield Dr. SE, near 60th Street and Eastern Avenue in Gaines Township.
A resident in the apartment where the fire started used the kitchen sink sprayer to try and extinguish the fire but only agitated it, according to a news release from the property manager.
Additional 911 callers stated there were some residents trapped on the third floor of the building, according to the Kent County Sheriff's Department.
Deputies were the first to arrive, and saw smoke and flames coming from the third-floor area. Deputies entered Building 6121 to help the residents escape. Tenants in Building 6123 were also evacuated as firefighters doused the flames.
"Deputies fought thick smoke and limited visibility as they were searching" for the victims, police said.
Deputies broke a window so fresh air could get into the complex, and helped three children and a woman to safety.
Deputies and other first responders forced their way into apartments as they continued to evacuate tenants.
The apartment where the fire started sustained property damage. Building repairs began Tuesday. The tenants are staying with family, although Woodfield Apartments officials offered another apartment for use.
All of the residents of Building 6123 and the 11 other affected families in Building 6121 were allowed to return to their homes, which sustained smoke and water damage.
The American Red Cross is assisting 16 affected families.
Here is a statement to the Kent County Sheriff's Department from a Kentwood police sergeant, who saw the six deputies working to evacuate the tenants in the burning apartment complex --
"I also wanted to remind you of the bravery of your deputies [Kevin Daley, Jason Postma, Ed Kolakowski, Julie Vogelzang, Joel Langeland and Andrew Jonkman], as at least one detail has come to my recollection as I return to my desk. As we approached the entrance to the apartment building, glass was broken out above the entrance. It was your deputies apparently trying to get themselves more air. When I got to the last stairway, and saw the deputies on the 3rd level, I saw that the deputies had a goal – to check the apartment 'lofts" that they told me' hadn't been checked.' The smoke level was probably down to their shoulders...or lower, even with the window now 'open.' None of them was standing outside, they were all on the 3rd floor, and they intended to achieve their goal, together.
"It was physically impossible with the smoke, the level of which was lowering. In my mind, they weren't going to give up, either, until I told them we'd get somebody there with a mask, and that we would finish checking and re-checking the apartments that we could.
"I know you are proud of the courage and commitment of those deputies."
Four suspicious fires ignited in garages at the same apartment complex in December 2012.
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