One person escaped from a house fire Tuesday in the 900 block of Columbia in Berkley with two cats, two dogs and his life.
Neighbors declined to name the man, but said he managed to rescue the pets, with the help of a passerby, as he fled. City Councilman Steve Baker said the occupant called 911 shortly after 1 p.m.
Director Richard Eshman said 14 of the department's officers, as well as three from the , responded to the blaze. BPS Sgt. Pete Kelly added that the Oak Park Public Safety Department was standing by to provide backup police assistance.
"I commend the for their fast response and the professional handling of this tragic event," Baker said.
The fire burned through the home's roof and blew out some of the windows, leaving behind shattered glass and charred rubble in the back of the building. Smoke from the blaze even attracted a news helicopter.
"It was a burner," Eshman said. "There were flames in the air."
The fire's cause remains under investigation, he said.
"It's a devastating loss for these people," said Michael Hickey, who was next door at his best friend's house Tuesday.
Hickey said everyone pitched in to help as the disaster unfolded: A man collecting recycling for Tringali Sanitation helped save the pets, which are being housed temporarily at a neighbor's house.
"The neighbors started calling neighbors and, inevitably, you get the call to come home and see what the damage is," Hickey said.
The siding on his friend Toby Cadorette's garage, for example, was damaged by the fire's intense heat.
BPS Sgt. Kelly added that an off-duty Southfield Fire Department employee who lives in the neighborhood also pitched in to help fight the fire.
The neighborly spirit extended online, where Berkley Patch followers on Facebook reached out to see how they could help:
- : Does the family need anything we can help with? I believe this house right down the street from us. So Sorry.
- Katey Wagner: What Street? What can the community do for them?
- Joan Tyldesley: How can we help?
BPS Sgt. Kelly said the home's occupants, an adult son and his parents, are doing OK.
"(The homeowner's) squared away for housing. She's made arrangements for her pets. The board-up company is there securing the house and she's been in touch with her insurance company," he said Tuesday evening. "She's, at this point, pretty well set."