By Ryan Jeltema and Cory Smith
BELDING — Virginia Wilder was just putting her 18-month-old son, Iral, to sleep in the basement of her father-in-law’s house at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday when smoke detectors sounded upstairs.
Virginia’s husband, Ben Wilder, quickly ran upstairs into the kitchen. He found it full of smoke with flames shooting from the back of the electric stove.
“I grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put out the flames as best I could,” Ben said. “But even after I used up the extinguisher, the flames kept coming.”
Ben said he then ran back downstairs to Virginia, who was on the phone with Ionia County Central Dispatch, and his two children, telling them “we have to get out of here.”
Virginia said the only safe way out of the house was through the basement with the kitchen fire spreading upstairs.
“There’s a door down there but we never use it,” she said. “There was a metal shelving unit in the way of the door, so Ben quickly threw it out of the way. I grabbed my children and the four of us ran out of the house as quickly as we could.”
The four of them, including the couple’s daughter, 6-month-old Harley, who was already asleep in the basement, safely made it out of the house at 528 W. High St. with no injuries.
Belding Fire Capt. Don Eady said the department was dispatched on a rescue call of people trapped in a house fire, but fortunately everyone was already safe outside the house when firefighters arrived.
“We thought we were going to be doing a quick rescue,” he said. “We were very fortunate that they were already safe when we arrived.”
Eady called for a Life EMS Ambulance unit to treat the Wilders. However, nobody was injured and the ambulance left the scene without transporting anyone to the hospital.
Firefighters attempted an interior attack on the blaze. They reported most of the fire had been knocked down by 2:25 p.m.
“It was a quick knockdown,” he said. “We were able to put out the fire before it spread much beyond the kitchen.”
Eady believes the fire started at the stove, where it ran up the wall to the ceiling and into the adjacent living room. Belding Fire Chief Gregg Moore said the fire’s exact cause is still under investigation.
“Mr. Wilder has informed me that the oven was not on when the fire occurred, it was more than likely a short in the wiring, but we can’t be sure until we investigate further,” Moore said.
The house sustained moderate smoke and fire damage. The American Red Cross is assisting the family with food, clothing and shelter.
Firefighters remained on the scene until 3:45 p.m. investigating the cause, checking for hot spots and cleaning up.
Virginia said she is just glad she and her family made it out of the house OK.
“I’m still shaking,” she said. “I was more worried about my husband and kids than anything.”