Red Cross offering assistance to residents of apartment building destroyed by fire

Red Cross offering assistance to residents of apartment building destroyed by fire

Residents of the apartment building on Valley Street destroyed by fire made it out safely and without injury but lost all their belongings.

MUSKEGON, Mich. — The fire that destroyed a three-story apartment building Monday afternoon in Muskegon likely started from a stovetop in a kitchen.

That’s the preliminary finding released Tuesday by the city’s department of public safety.

The fire stated just before 5 p.m. Monday, Jan. 4, in the 1800 block of Valley Street, near East Laketon Avenue and South Getty Street.

Fire departments from Muskegon, Norton Shores, and Muskegon Heights responded, as did a team of volunteers from the Muskegon Red Cross.

“We’re there to help give them comfort,” said Red Cross Volunteer Donna Whitehead.

Donna and her husband Tom Whitehead have been volunteering with the Red Cross in Muskegon for 15 years.

Monday, the Whiteheads offered the 15 individuals whose apartments were destroyed in the fire not only comfort, but also Red Cross client assistance debit cards loaded with funds to cover some of their immediate needs.

“To make sure they have a safe place to stay, make sure they have food and clothing,” said Tom. “That’s our job to get them started on the recovery process.” 

The apartment building included 11 units, 10 were occupied.

The Red Cross has assigned a case worker to each of the residents displaced by the fire. The help from the Red Cross includes matching the individuals’ needs with area agencies who can offer long-term assistance.

The Whiteheads say more than half of the renters they encounter after a fire don’t have renters insurance. 

“It’s one of the things I think that’s the most important,” said Tom. “Sometimes they get out of the fire with just the clothes on their back.”

Donna urges renters to check into renters insurance. In many cases, a basic policy costs about as much as a large pizza per month. And when added to an auto insurance policy, multi-policy discounts often reduce the monthly cost.

“And in some cases the payment is actually less,” said Donna.

The Whiteheads also encourage renters to protect important papers like birth certificates and social security cards in a small, affordable fireproof lock box.

And because photo identification is so important to obtain assistance following a fire, the Whiteheads recommend a purse or wallet always be in a convenient place inside an apartment so it can be quickly grabbed while running from a fire.

No firefighters were injured fighting the fire. One is credited with saving a resident’s cat from the third floor of the apartment building.

The structure served as a school until the 1950’s.

Muskegon Police and Fire say the fire investigation is ongoing.    

RELATED: Fire heavily damages Muskegon apartment complex

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