May 26 • 05:25 PM

Fire leaves family homeless

Father of three says family is grateful for kindness, generosity shown them

Imlay City firefighters work to contain the spread of Friday’s fire at the Maple Grove Communities. photo by Tom Wearing.

December 22, 2010
IMLAY CITY — A family of five is homeless following a Friday afternoon fire that caused extensive damage to their home in the Maple Grove Communities mobile home park.

Fire Chief Kip Reaves said Imlay City firefighters were dispatched to the residence at around 3:36 p.m. on Dec. 17 after receiving several 911 calls.

Because of cold weather and an initial shortage of available firefighters, the Attica Twp. and Almont Twp. Fire Departments were also dispatched to the scene, said Reaves.

Reaves lamented the family's misfortune, while estimating the loss to the home and its contents at about $50,000. He said an investigation of the fire's origin is ongoing.

"It's just a week from Christmas and this family has lost everything of material value," said Reaves.

Reaves noted that some neighbors offered coats and food to family members, and the American Red Cross found them temporary housing, clothing and food for a couple of days.

"We hope there are other good Samaritans, service clubs or individuals who can continue to help them out," Reaves added.

Indeed, help is already arriving, says homeowner Mark Manko, whose family has been housed at the Imlay City Days Inn since Friday.

"The American Red Cross stepped in right away and they got us accommodations," said Manko, whose family members include wife, Vickie, and children; Jeremiah, 17; Jacob, 12; and Amanda Lynn, 6.

"It's tough," Manko admitted, "but we're gonna' be alright. All of us are safe and our pets survived, too."

Manko said his daughter Amanda's biggest concern after the fire was not being able to return a school library book.

"It's funny," he said, "but that's what she was most worried about. She wanted me to explain to her principal that we were not going to be able to bring that book back."

A former Vlasic employee, Manko said he has been out of work since June and has been struggling to make ends meet.

He said the generosity of community members in the aftermath of the fire has been "extraordinary."

"The kindness and generosity we've experienced is unbelievable," said Manko.

Manko noted that the only clothes the family had after the fire were the ones they were wearing. Realizing the family's plight, Manko said Todd Barraco, Jeremiah's principal at Venture High School, took his son shopping.

"Mr. Barraco took him out and got him a whole new wardrobe," Manko continued. "He's been amazing. So have the people at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, the Red Cross, and even strangers. Everyone has been extraordinarily gracious.

"This community has shown us generosity that only comes through the grace of God," he continued. "The most important thing, though, is that we're all safe. I'm most grateful for that."

Reaves said firefighters were generally able to contain the fire to the inside of the 16-foot-by-31-foot double wide home, while limiting its spread to surrounding homes and buildings.

"The firefighters were able to protect the nearby homes and sheds," he said. "It took nearly four hours to finally extinguish the fire and mop up the embers.

"It looks like an accidental electrical fire," he said. "Fortunately, everyone got out of the house and there were no injuries."

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.
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