SHELBY, MICH. - Liborio Cortes of Hart was inspecting the damage to his in-law’s house Monday morning.
“This is where the family gathered for special events,” he said. “There are a lot of memories there that have been lost.”
Fire destroyed the home of Juan and Enedina Chapa at 159 E. Fifth St. late Sunday night. Cortes said Juan was sitting in the living room just after 11 p.m. when he heard the smoke alarm go off upstairs. He said Enedina had just gotten up from the main floor bedroom to find out when Juan was going to bed.
“He tried to run upstairs but there was too much smoke,” Cortes said.
At that point Enedina had gotten out of the house. Her husband tried to get into the unattached garage, located a few feet from the house, but that too had caught on fire. He eventually made his way out of the house.
A neighbor helped Juan get one of their vehicles out of the garage but fire destroyed their other car, a BMW.
Shelby Deputy Fire Chief Mark Burmeister said the cause of the fire is unknown but it is likely to have started in the garage. He said the Chapas’ insurance company will be inspecting the fire on Tuesday but the county’s investigation team will not be looking into it, adding that there is no evidence that the fire’s origins were suspicious.
Shelby Fire Department was assisted by Hart Fire Department and Ferry Fire Department. Also responding the scene were Oceana EMS and Michigan State Police. Shelby cleared the scene around 4 a.m., according to Shelby Fire Chief Jack White.
Cortes said his in-laws had lived in the house, located on the southwest corner of Fifth and State streets across from Thomas Read Elementary School, for 11 years. They home was insured, Cortes said, but the Chapas had just switched to a different insurance company.
“They lost everything,” Cortes said. “There were family photos, he had lots of tools, a new lawnmower.”
The American Red Cross is assisting the Chapas, who are staying at a local hotel, Cortes said.
© 2016 Oceana County Press