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Garage explosion starts condo fire | News

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Garage explosion starts condo fire

BYRON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WZZM) -- Much of a four-unit condominium building in Byron Center has extensive fire damage after a car exploded in one of the garages and the flames quickly spread.

It happened about 5:00 p.m. Tuesday on Chino Valley Drive in the Sierrafield complex.

Jenny Smits lives in the condo where the fire started.

"I had just come home from work and the car was running funny," she recalls. "I walked inside to feed the dogs and I heard a pop. I looked in the garage and everything was in flames."

Within minutes the fire was inside two of the condominiums and was threatening a third.

"Our men who do the landscaping said, 'Ma'am, you have got to get out of that house -- it's on fire'," she recalls. "I grabbed my purse and followed them out."

There wasn't much firefighters could save in two of the four condominiums.

"We had flames shooting out the side and the roof," explains Captain Dennis Buist of the Byron Township Fire Department.

But volunteers from several area fire departments kept the flames away from the other two units in the building.

And from Judy Raible's condo they rescued the flag that had draped her husband Jack's coffin and the urn that held his ashes.

"My father passed away in February," says Chad Raible, holding up a neatly folded, framed American flag "He served in the Navy and they had a flag over his casket."

"They brought out the flag and I asked them to go get the urn and they did," adds Chad's wife, Rebecca Raible.

Firefighters say they often recover items from burning buildings that have significant emotional value for residents.

"Our main concern is get the fire out," says Captain Buist. "But we try to protect the property as much as possible. We go for pictures and things really dear to people. Irreplaceable stuff."

Two units were destroyed. Smoke and water damaged a third. Two vehicles were also totaled.

"Never experienced anything like this in my life," says Judy Raible. "Never."