GR apartments a total loss after smoky fire

More than three and a half hours after it was reported, a fire on Fourth Street NW in Grand Rapids still smoked. (July 24, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The day after a fire destroyed a housing unit on Grand Rapids’ northwest side, fire crews are still working to put out pockets of fire buried by debris.

>>Inside Photos of the fire

The fire in the 600 block of Fourth Street near Davis Avenue NW, across from the Basilica of Saint Adalbert, was reported around 6 p.m. Fire officials told 24 Hour News 8 they are investigating whether it may have been started by a child who was playing with fire.

Angela Elliott said she and others were grilling on the sidewalk out front when somebody yelled that there was a fire.

“We went back there and I saw the fire was in the basement part, in the bottom part of the house, and nobody could get in the basement. It’s locked,” she said.

She said a man started running through the nine-unit building banging on doors and making sure everyone got out. Meanwhile, she and other neighbors tried to put the fire out.

“Buckets of water; we were just throwing water on it,” Elliott said. “It just wouldn’t go out. It escalated to where it was up the stairs and everything.”

Thick, brown-gray smoke poured from the two-story structure for hours. At one point, flames were seen coming from the windows and about three and a half hours after the initial call, flames could be seen coming from the roof. Smoke continued to billow into the night as firefighters remained on the scene, dousing the fire.

Fire consumes apartments on Fourth St NW (July 24, 2014)Residents could only watch as their homes were destroyed.

Elliott said she and her son Simon and their dog Hersey don’t have a place to stay.

And Simon didn’t have any shoes until a stranger approached and gave the boy some tennis shoes and Elliott some cash.

“He needed shoes,” passerby Ash Macy of East Grand Rapids, who gave Simon the shoes, said. “And they’re going to need help.”

She said she was headed to a dance class when she saw Simon barefoot. She then went to the store and got him some.

“I’m glad people care,” a touched Elliott said. “I’m glad people still care.”

The Red Cross is assisting the 18 residents who lived in the building and lost their homes.

No one was hurt in the fire.

Consumers Energy told 24 Hour News 8 it had to shut off electricity to the surrounding area due to the fire and would not turn it back on until fire officials give them an all-clear. Consumers also said crews would have to make repairs to damaged lines.

>>Inside Power outage map

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