NORTON SHORES, Mich. (WOOD) - In addition to determining the cause of the fire at the Lake Forrest apartments' J building in Norton Shores, fire officials are working to determine why the hand pull fire alarm system failed.
The fire that started just before 2 a.m. Saturday was the second fire in the same building, on the same floor in less than 24 hours, Norton Shores fire officials confirm.
Residents say Saturday morning's fire seemed to have started in the very same unit as the first blaze.
Fire officials say the fire on Friday afternoon was contained to one apartment unit and started because of an unattended space heater.
They had not confirmed that the second blaze started in the same unit.
"It was fully extinguished," said Deputy Chief Bob Gagnon of the Norton Shores Fire Department referencing the first fire. "It's gonna be quite some time to get an idea as to where this one (on Saturday morning) started."
Bobbie Caviness says he lives next door to the home that caught fire and saw what happened when one of his neighbors tried to activate the fire alarm using the pull station Saturday morning.
"Nothing happened. For some reason it didn't come on," said Caviness. "We pulled it down. We pushed the button and the handle fell to the floor. We didn't hear anything so we started banging on doors to let people know and were screaming to the top of our lungs."
Other residents said they were awakened by someone who'd noticed the fire from the outside and started throwing snowballs at residents' windows to alert them.
Gagnon says officials are looking into whether or not damage from the fire caused the alarm failure.
No injuries were reported and all but one resident had evacuated when firefighters got on scene. That resident was awakened by firefighters and escorted from the building.
Built-in fire stops helped to keep the fire from spreading to other connected apartment buildings, Gagnon said. Third floor units of the J building were destroyed. Apartments on lower floors were damaged by smoke and water.
"I'm just glad that nobody got hurt and that everybody got out safely," said Caviness. "We could see flames dancing through the roof and we knew that it was gonna be a bad one this time."
Management at the Lake Forrest apartment complex said it was not aware of problems with the fire alarms in the J building.
With the help of the Red Cross, Caviness and about a dozen other families that lived in the building are now looking for a new place to call home, at least for now.
"I lost everything," Caviness said. "I literally got out of there with the clothes on my back."
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