MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – One year ago, on July 30, flames poured from the roof of the Pine Ridge Apartments. It was a call to action for some, while others were forced to leave their homes.
People evacuated their apartments that summer day, and they wouldn’t return for many months. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
“The response from emergency providers and the community was amazing and quick. And I was really relieved how little I needed to do to make sure my tenants were safe,” said Sharon Maki, the executive director of Marquette Housing Commission.
No fire or smoke got into the building. However, water and foam caused severe damage to the 9th floor.
“You really couldn’t smell any smoke. But, the ceilings were dripping. Furniture was soaked. There was an inch of foam on the floor that the fire department was sweeping down the stairway.”
Maki was not able to provide answers for her tenants’ questions as she did not know the answers either.
“When they look at you as the leader and you’re not leading, it’s really hard.”
About two months after the fire, people living on the first through the eighth floor were able to return to their apartments. The ninth floor was still in need of repairs after the water and foam damages.
Ninth floor residents were supposed to return in March, however, COVID-19 struck and delayed moving in until just recently.
“One of our tenants who lives on the ninth floor, Tom, spends a lot of time sitting in one of the chairs on the ninth floor, and looking outside and enjoying the view,” said Maki. “So, when the first day they could move back into their apartment, he not only moved his stuff back into the apartment but went back into his chair on the ninth floor and was outside watching the beautiful view. It was incredible. That was when normal hit.”
Even through crisis, the tenants were brought closer together.
“They were really good support for each other,” said Maki. “There was tenants providing rides because they didn’t have any other way to get to the grocery store. So some bonds created from tenants. I really do think there’s a lot more connection between the tenants than there used to be.”
Community members, the Red Cross and the Salvation Army came together to help the tenants of Pine Ridge.
Captain Doug Winters with the Salvation Army of Marquette County recalls, July 30, 2019 as a very strange day.
“I was actually out to lunch with a person from out of town discussing fundraising things and I was sitting downtown and I saw smoke blowing across downtown and it wasn’t five minutes later, I got a phone call on my cell phone,” said Winters. “‘Hey we’ve got a deploy our Emergency Canteen.'”
Within 30 minutes of that call, The Salvation Army was there with water for residents, firefighters and police officers on scene. Then residents were moved to the Superior Dome where they needed help with more than just water.
“How do we feed them? And so again with our Emergency Canteen, getting some supplies and driving over there, driving right inside the Dome,” said Winters. “It was a very simple supper that first night. It was hot dogs and chips and beverages.”
During the 2-month long care for some of these residents, The Salvation Army was their the whole time. They say working together with other entities in the community, helped make operations run efficiently.
“One of the key ones was the American Red Cross,” said Winters. “Stepped in, they were running the shelter and just really good communication between the facility where we were at, Red Cross and us. We provided three meals a day through the whole process there being able to make sure that people were fed. But, feeding was only part of the problem. It was others in our community that stepped in and really supported with running the shelter, supported with being able to find new homes for folks. Pet food for some of the folks that had pets. Just go down the list of people who stepped in and helped.”
What happened at Pine Ridge Apartments a year ago is something out of the ordinary. They say their response to this incident helped them prepare to help people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and build new relationships to help more neighbors in need.
“When COVID hit, and we knew we had to start delivering food baskets, our first pile out was with Pine Ridge,” said Winters. “Because we’re invested with them.”
Winters says one of the biggest things that has come out of this for them is building relationships with other services organizations in the county.
“That are ready to work together and ready to help solve the problems,” said Winters.
To make a donation to The Salvation Army, click here. You can also call their local office in Marquette to see how you can help the cause at (906) 226-2241.
For ways to help out the American Red Cross, click here.