LAKEVIEW — With firefighters having just extinguished a fire within his residence, Michael Mass sat in his car, keeping a folded American flag salvaged from his home close by his side.
The 21-year military veteran sat in a daze Tuesday afternoon, unaware of how the fire could have started, which likely destroyed a number of his personal items.
Firefighters from the Lakeview District Fire Department responded to the fire at approximately 4:10 p.m. at 113 W. 2nd Street in downtown Lakeview, and while they were able to quickly extinguish the blaze, Mass, 50, continued to sit in shock as his car idled in the street.
According to Mass, he was cooking dinner when he stepped outside to speak to his landlord on thephone, when he returned inside to a house containing a large amount of smoke.
“I finished my cigarette, I came back in, and the house was full of smoke. I didn’t see any fire, it was just full of smoke,” he said. “I basically lost everything. All of my clothes, my laptop, my external drive … everything I had was in that house.”
According to Lakeview District Fire Chief Patrick Q. Carr, Mass was one of two renters of the two-story home. The fire was successfully contained to the first story, where Mass lives.
Carr said though Mass had been cooking dinner, he suspects the fire started in the rear bedroom on the southeast end of the home. The cause of the fire is unknown and remains under investigation, but Carr said he does not believe it to be suspicious in nature.
“I believe the fire started in the rear bedroom. There’s not much damage to the house to speak of, other than heavy smoke damage,” he said. “Nobody was inside and nobody was hurt.”
Carr said there was “light to moderate smoke” showing when firefighters arrived on scene, but no flames.
“The house was sealed up, the resident had stepped outside and kept the doors and windows shut, so there wasn’t much oxygen for the fire,” he said. “Once we opened it up and air got to it, we had a couple guys go in, two groups of two. Once we found it (the fire), it didn’t take long to extinguish it.”
Carr said firefighters remained on scene for about an hour to ensure the fire, which had made its way briefly into a wall, wouldn’t reignite.
Mass said he doesn’t know where he will turn to, as far as a place to stay.
“I’m just going to get in my car right now, I’m taking my cat, and I’m driving for awhile,” he said.
For anyone looking to assist Mass with donations, from clothing, shelter or food, he can be reached on his cell phone at (616) 589-7157.
The Maple Valley Township Fire Department, Lakeview Police Department, Lakeview Department of Public Works, and Montcalm County EMS also assisted on scene.