Tenant witnessed people jumping out windows, heard screams for help.

December 15, 2016
Firefighters from Mason County's Pere Marquette spray water on the wreckage Thursday afternoon.

Firefighters from Mason County’s Pere Marquette spray water on the wreckage Thursday afternoon.

Tenant witnessed people jumping out windows, heard screams for help.

#OceanaCountyNews #Hart

By Allison Scarbrough. Editor.

UPDATE: Oceana County Emergency Management Coordinator James Duram notified OCP at 4:46 p.m. Thursday that residents will not be able to return to their apartments until Friday due to utility issues. 

HART — Becca Gallop, a mother of two young girls, lives in apartment building #1 of the Parkview Manor complex at 710 East Main Street, which is one of the four buildings spared by Thursday morning’s tragic fire.

Two of the buildings are completely destroyed, said Hart Area Fire Chief Ken Klotz.

Gallop said she heard people screaming for help and witnessed tenants jumping out of windows to escape the fire.

Becca Gallop with her two young daughters inside their apartment.

Becca Gallop with her two young daughters inside their apartment.

“It was about 12:45 a.m., and I was sitting in the living room with my kids sleeping in their rooms,” Gallop said. “I heard someone screaming for help.” She looked out her apartment window and observed an elderly woman sitting in her electric scooter outside wearing only her pajamas in the frigid cold. Then, she saw people pointing. She looked out another window in her apartment and was horrified to see the building across from her apartment was on fire.

“I saw flames going everywhere,” she said. “I saw people jumping out windows. A guy jumped out and was just laying there.” She later found out that the man suffered a broken shoulder from the jump. She also witnessed another male tenant throw a bed sheet out the window in an attempt to climb down from the second-story window, but he ended up jumping out, she said.

The apartments house many elderly people, she said. A blind man lived in one of the apartments that burned, but he managed to safely escape, she said.

“I could hear loud crackling,” Gallop said. She also heard smoke alarms activating. “I was hoping the wind wouldn’t pick up.”

“My daughter said, ‘Mom, I’m scared.” Gallop has two girls, ages 2 and 1.

The apartment complex owner, Tammy Loncore, was assisting residents at the scene and making sure they were safe, Gallop said. “She did an awesome job.” A maintenance person who lives in the building was also assisting tenants, she said.

hart_apartment_fireGallop, who has lived in the apartment complex for just a few months, said there are no sprinklers in the individual apartments, but did not know whether sprinklers are installed in the hallways. She and her girls are staying at her mother’s house until they can return to their apartment.

The six people who were injured in the massive fire have all been treated and released for minor injuries, said Oceana County Emergency Management Coordinator James Duram.

At least 16 people lost their homes due to the blaze that destroyed two eight-unit buildings, Duram said.

Gallop and the other tenants who were evacuated from the remaining four buildings are expected to be able to return to their apartments later this afternoon, Duram said.

American Red Cross is helping the displaced residents, most of whom are staying with family and friends, he said. Big Hart Brewing Company and Gale’s IGA, both located in Hart, are designated donation drop-off sites, Duram said. Most of the tenants are above the age of 50 with one in her 20s. The 16 or more people have lost everything. They are in need of winter clothing, household items and hygiene products, he said. First Baptist Church in Hart is organizing a dinner to help the fire victims Wednesday, Dec. 21, at 6 p.m. Details to be announced.

Five of the six people injured suffered from either smoke inhalation or hypothermia in the single-digit temperatures and wind chills recorded at -10.

“I am thankful there were no fatalities,” the emergency coordinator said. “Everybody came together, and it was a great response. These conditions are not easy for firefighters, because their gear freezes up. Hats off to all who responded.”

Duram also credited the Oceana County Medical Care Facility located across the street from Parkview Manor. The facility provided immediate shelter for the tenants in the frigid conditions. “Hats off to them for being very accommodating.”

A total of 81 residents evacuated the complex.

Investigators are on scene trying to determine what caused the 12:36 a.m. fire.

Police from the Hart, Shelby and Pentwater departments responded to the scene, as well as the Oceana County Sheriff’s Office and the Hart post of the Michigan State Police. In addition to the Hart Area Fire Department, firefighters from Shelby-Benona, Pentwater and Ferry Township responded to the huge fire. Mason County’s Pere Marquette Township Fire Department was called for its aerial truck. The Norton Shores Fire Department Canteen Unit was also on scene to provide beverages and snacks to the firefighters battling the blaze in frigid conditions. Multiple EMS units also responded.

The apartment complex is insured.

Firefighters were at the scene for 14 hours, finally clearing the call at 2:26 p.m.

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