Quick action prevents further fire damage

ALPENA – When a doughnut shop employee smelled smoke Thursday morning, her quick thinking prevented a home on Miller Street from being destroyed by fire.

The fire was reported at 9:31 a.m. at 316 W. Miller St., after Jessica Humphrey went outside to clear the sidewalks at the bakery.

Humphrey said when she smelled smoke, she checked to make sure the bakery was not on fire. Then she spotted smoke coming from a house next door, and could see several indoor cats jumping at the windows, trying to escape.

No one was home at the time. So Humphrey attempted to open a door to the home to save the pets, but it wouldn’t budge. Concerned her actions would cause additional problems, Humphrey called 911, and police and firefighters arrived about three minutes later.

At the scene Alpena Fire Chief Bill Forbush said investigators hadn’t determined the origin of the fire, but were looking in the area of a basement chimney. Two tenants live in a main floor apartment, but were not home.

Forbush said 17 firefighters and paramedics were on the scene and were able to put out the fire in the basement. They then used a new thermal imaging camera, which helped them locate pockets of fire on the two upper floors, and extinguished those blazes before flames could do more damage.

Arctic temperatures made firefighting a challenge, he said. Several nozzles had to be replaced after freezing, and hoses had to be kept running, creating slippery footing for heavily equipped firefighters.

Forbush said one of the cats was found, given oxygen by Firefighter Dennis Krueger and survived. A second cat died.

Forbush said the house and contents sustained heavy smoke and water damage, but the structure was not a total loss.

W. Miller Street was blocked off for several hours as three fire engines, four ambulances, a mobile command post and other vehicles arrived at the scene.

One person who saw images of the fire on a social media website was unruly on the scene, requiring the assistance of Alpena police.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.