IMLAY CITY — An Imlay City firefighter is being credited with possibly saving the lives of two people who were asleep in a home on Blacks Corners Road when a fire broke out Friday morning.
Fire Chief Kip Reaves said veteran firefighter Terry Maxwell had been responding to a report of a downed electrical wire around 6:22 a.m. when he saw smoke coming from his neighbor's home on Blacks Corners.
Uncertain if anyone was inside, Maxwell began knocking on the windows and door of the burning home to alert any occupants.
Inside the home was Kevin Lalone and a female companion who were sleeping on the second floor, neither of whom were aware the structure was on fire.
Lalone, whose parents own the home at 770 N. Blacks Corners, said had it not been for Maxwell's efforts to warn them, the couple might have perished in the fire. There were reportedly no smoke detectors in the home.
"That firefighter saved the lives of two people today," said Lalone. "I heard the banging on the window and he told me he was about to kick the door open when I answered.
Firefighters work to get to source of blaze at home on Blacks Corners Road on Friday. Veteran Imlay firefighter Terry Maxwell is credited with spotting the fire and saving the occupants’ lives. photo by Randy Jorgensen.
"He (Maxwell) said 'your house is on fire' and I looked up and saw the smoke. He's a hero to us."
Reaves said response to the fire was complicated when Imlay City's fire pumper was struck by another vehicle at the corner of M-53 and M-21, putting the firefighting unit out of service.
As a result, firefighters from Almont, Attica and Goodland townships had to be summoned to assist at the fire scene, said Reaves.
"While our pumper was en route, it got in an accident with a passenger car," Reaves said. "Fortunately no one was hurt. The car was damaged and our fire truck was badly damaged."
Reaves said that a preliminary investigation suggests that the previously reported downed wire may have come in contact with the house and ignited the fire.
"Upon arrival, the high voltage power line was still energized," said Reaves, "forcing firefighters to work around the electrical danger until DTE could get a crew on scene to cut the power lines."
There was no official estimate of damage, Reaves said, pointing out there was significant smoke and water damage to nearly half of the structure.
Reaves noted that Maxwell is currently the longest-serving member of the Imlay City Fire Department, having served more than 31 years.
He acknowledged Maxwell for his quick response and members of the neighboring fire departments for their prompt and helpful assist.
"Terry (Maxwell) absolutely did the right thing to get the people up, out and to a safe area," said Reaves. "He is a veteran firefighter and the son of a former Almont firefighter. He knows what to do under pressure and did his job."
Reaves said about 30 firefighters responded to the scene, many of them for more than three hours. A Lapeer County EMS crew also responded.
Lapeer County's American Red Cross chapter provided the residents with clothing and food until other accommodations became available.