May 26 • 11:23 AM

Six families displaced by Monday fire

Origin of Memorial Day blaze subject of MSP investigation

May 28, 2008
IMLAY CITY — Monday was a Memorial Day that tenants at the Colonial Hills apartment complex will remember for a long time.

At around 3:13 a.m., residents at 455 Colonial Drive, one of two apartment buildings at the site, were forced to evacuate the premises due to a fire believed to have started in the basement.

Vicky Guziak, a Colonial Hills tenant for the past year, said six families have been displaced as a result of the fire, whose origin has yet to be determined.

"All of us had to jump from our windows because the smoke was so thick," said Guziak, who sprained her ankle during the escape. "Nobody could breathe."

Apartment residents Vicky Guziak and Cynthia Casillas returned to the fire scene Tuesday morning to retrieve some of their personal items. photo by Tom Wearing.
Guziak said as many as 20 people have been left homeless by the fire, although some found temporary housing at the Imlay City Days Inn through the assistance of the American Red Cross.

"Some will be able to move in with their families," said Guziak, "but after about two days, some of us will have nowhere to go. I guess we'll have to apply for emergency housing somewhere."

Cynthia Casillas, who resides at the complex with her two daughters, ages 4 and 2, is also uncertain about what the future holds.

A college student, Casillas has received some food and clothing from the Hispanic Service Center. Until she can make other plans, she and the girls will move in with her parents.

"The problem is they (her parents) are having a lot of financial problems," she said. "Just a month ago, I was hoping they could move in with us to help them out. Now it's the other way around. They're having to help me."

Imlay City Asst. Fire Chief Rick Horton said it was fortunate that all the residents had been alerted and evacuated by the time firefighters arrived.

"There was heavy smoke coming from the basement windows when we got there," said Horton. "The damage isn't really visible from outside. It's all internal damage, but the building is not going to be liveable for awhile. The good thing is nobody was injured."

Horton said Michigan State Police fire investigators will visit the scene today (Weds., May 28) in an effort to establish the origin of the fire.

Imlay City firefighters were assisted by Imlay City police and by Attica Town-ship firefighters, through a mutual aid arrangement.

Steve Dupuis, the owner of the two-building apartment complex, was not available for comment. However, a representative for Dupuis was at the site Tuesday to help residents retrieve their belongings.

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