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September 22 • 01:36 PM
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Neighborly assist helps save house


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Imlay City firefighters work to minimize damage to home on Second Street this week. The homeowner’s next-door neighbor was praised for an assist.

May 13, 2009
IMLAY CITY — Good neighbors are good to come by; which is probably what the owners of a two-story home on Second Street are thinking today.

At around 6:15 p.m. on Wednesday, May 6, Imlay City and Attica firefighters were dispatched to a house fire in the 300 block of Second Street.

When firefighters arrived, they found next-door neighbor Gene Gibbard holding the fire at bay with spray from a garden hose.

Gibbard's efforts, said Fire Chief Kip Reaves, probably saved the home from more significant damage and greater loss of its contents.

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Reaves said smoke was emanating from the rear wall of the home and moving toward the roof and a dormer wall that leads to the roof's peak. That's when Gibbard, a senior citizen, leapt into action.

"We have to give Mr. Gibbard a ton of credit," said Reaves. "He spotted the smoke, forced open the gate, checked it out, called 911 and started spraying water on the fire.

"He also told responders that the homeowners were not in the house, and that bit of information saved time and effort for firefighters.

"Had he not taken action, this fire would have been a lot worse; possibly a total loss. As it is, the home is insured and very fixable."

Reaves said fire, smoke and water damage were limited to about 20 percent of the structure. He added that the homeowners' pets, photos and personal belongings were also saved.

"It's nice to have neighbors who look after and watch over each other like this in Imlay City," said Reaves. "While structurally damaged, the house is still a home."

The homeowners returned as the fire was being fought, he said, adding that Red Cross representatives arranged for food and temporary accommodations for the residents.

The origin and cause of the fire have not been determined, Reaves added. Nor has an official estimate of the damage.

Reaves noted that Gene Gibbard's father, Wendell, had been an Imlay City firefighter and fire officer many years ago.

Lapeer County EMS personnel also responded to the fire, which took nearly two hours to fully extinguish.

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