National News

Damage estimates from Midland apartment fire pushing $2 million

Posted August 3

— Dozens of residents are out of their homes after an apartment fire Monday evening, and it could be more than a month before they're allowed back in.

The fire happened at the Greenhill Apartments in Midland on July 31 at 6:22 p.m. The complex is located at 1010 Eastlawn Drive.

The fire was confined to the top floor, but extensive water damage has pushed damage estimates to around $2 million.

Ten residents were hospitalized to be checked for smoke inhalation, three firefighters also got checked out. They have all been released.

The tenant of the apartment that caught fire was not home at the time, but he told TV5 he left a candle burning and believes that is the cause of the fire.

Midland Fire Chief Chris Couglin says he can't say conclusively what caused the fire, but says either smoking material or an unattended candle is to blame.

Firefighters said there would have been sprinklers in every unit if the building had been up to the latest code.

"That's the difference between minor damage and everybody staying in their homes and everybody being essentially turned out," Coughlin said.

The Red Cross is stepping in to help.

Tony Lasher, executive director of the East Central Bay Chapter of the Red Cross, said about 190 residents were affected by the fire and the Red Cross will shelter residents until they can find suitable transition and housing for them.

Which, due to restoration needed in some portions of the building, could be more than a month.

Tenants have been allowed back, under escort, to retrieve personal effects including pets.

"I have a pet in 607 that's been in there since the fire started and my son and I left," said Kim Carpenter, resident.

Carpenter spent Monday night in a van, worried about missing neighbors and the cat she left behind.

"Well, they're only letting people get medication. Not even a change of clothes, which really sucks for some of us here," Carpenter said.

The apartment complex is home to senior citizens and people with disabilities.

"Really loud alarm went off. It was going off for about a half an hour, 45 minutes and driving me nuts. I thought well, I'll just take a walk," said Bonnie Lederer, resident.

When Lederer stepped outside on her sixth floor balcony she quickly learned what was going on.

"And the police officer below said 'you need to get out of the building cause it's on fire,'" Lederer said.

It wasn't until she walked into the main hallway that she saw thick smoke.

"I knew I couldn't use the elevators. Water was just pouring right out of it. So I took the stairwell. It was like a flowing river in there. I got wet up to my ankles," Lederer said.

She was able to spend the night with her grandson, but not all of the tenants were that fortunate.

Patty Michael lives two floors down from the apartment that started the fire. She just moved in over the weekend.

Water gushed into her apartment from the ceiling as firefighters worked to put out the blaze, forcing her to leave behind everything she owned.

"I don't even have my purse with my wallet, bank card, keys, nothing. I had to come home wearing scrubs because my clothes were soaked from the officers trying to help me down the stairs," Michael said.

She was rushed to the hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

Michael was one of the 29 residents who spent the night at the pop-up shelter at Midland High School.

"We have health services on staff. We also have mental health services on staff and we have been working with the local hospitals to make sure all of those needs are met," said Kirsty Gallagher, disaster program specialist for the Red Cross.

Michael struggles with a boot on her leg, breathing problems and diabetes. She said being forced out has left her without her prescriptions.

To make matters worse, Michael hadn't gotten around to buying renter's insurance since she just moved in.

"Hopefully everything is going to be salvageable. As far as moving out, I really don't want to move again. I'm tired of moving and I don't have the funds to do this. It's just, I don't," Michael said.

The ARC of Midland and the American Red Cross are assisting with temporary relocation of some of the residents.


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