January 25, 2017IMLAY CITY — When two families were rendered homeless after last Tuesday's (Jan. 17) house fire in Imlay Township, local individuals and organizations immediately went into assist mode.
While firefighters were able to save the 1930's-era house at 588 N. Van Dyke Rd., the structure sustained significant structural, smoke and water damage.
So much so that the home's six residents (two families) have lost not only their home, but all of their belongings.
Representatives from Lapeer County's Red Cross found them temporary (seven days) accommodations at the Imlay City Days Inn, but they have no idea where they will find more long-term housing.
Homeowner Dean Aubertin, who is on disability, said the two-story house is insured, but he carries a high deductible to keep costs affordable.
With a myriad of challenges ahead for him, his daughter, Jennifer, and four others displaced by the fire, Aubertin is shaken but hopeful for a positive outcome.
Eighteen-year-old Jennifer Aubertin is assisted by Margaret Guerrero-Deluca, Joe Deluca and Tony Caron of the Bluewater Nam Knights. photo by Tom Wearing.
"I'm just thankful that we got everyone out," said Aubertin. "I'm thankful to my daughter (Jennifer) for waking me up. She's was the real hero in all this.
"The fire had reached my mattress and I tried to put it out but couldn't. We were all barefoot when we ran out of the house."
Aubertin gave credit to the Red Cross, participating fire departments, and individuals who provided comforting words immediately after the fire.
"I've never been through anything like this before," said Aubertin. "I don't know what to do. I feel like I'm running blind."
Among the first to come to the families' aid were Imlay City Police Officer Joe Deluca and wife, Margaret, who provided clothing for the three children affected by the fire.
Aubertin said Officer Deluca has contacted and received support from local schools (Imlay City and Almont), local churches, fellow members of the "Bluewater Nam Knights" Motorcycle Club, and Shopko of Imlay City for donations.
On Thursday, Aubertin and the others gathered at Shopko, where store representatives Carla Zuhlke and Eddie Siwecki welcomed them with a $250 shopping spree for new clothing and shoes.
"We're always wanting to help our local communities when we can," said Zuhlke. "In this case we're able to assist a local family in immediate need."
She added that the Shopko Foundation has donated to both St. Paul's Lutheran Church and Imlay City Schools in the past.
"The support of the community has been amazing," Aubertin said. "Officer Deluca and his wife went above and beyond to help us out.
"The fire department did the best it could to preserve the house. The Red Cross put us up at the hotel. And others are making donations.
"Thanks to everyone who has helped and the people who continue to help," said Aubertin.
Since the fire, Aubertin has been busy consulting with insurance companies, claims adjusters and the like.
Meanwhile, he and the other two adults that lived in the house have been sifting through the rubble and fire debris in hopes of salvaging items that may have survived. An effort that has reaped little success.
On Friday, a local contractor was pumping out leftover water from the basement, while Aubertin made and fielded phone calls; hoping that one will lead to new longer-term housing for the families.
Aubertin's preference would be to restore the fire-damaged house if possible and affordable.
Anyone wishing to support the displaced families should call the Imlay City Police Dept. at 810-724-2345. Or contact Dean Aubertin at 586-843-6434.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.