Local Tragedy – West Wind Apartment Fire

Building G on fire, March 15 2021 around 11am, Photo by Nik Sanchez

West Wind Apartment Fire

By Nik Sanchez

On March 15th, 2021, the Buchanan Township needed community strength, as West Wind Apartments caught fire. Building G (located in the back lot of the complex west of Buchanan on Front Street) caught fire from a blaze that seemed to have started from the first-floor level, according to Buchanan City Fire Chief Mike Adams. He claims the fire walks its way up the exterior, gets in the eaves, and then claims the attic. He also said they had trouble getting to a water source, faced many challenges with the building being old in general, and did not have fire stoppers to restrain the fire initially. Mike Adams also believes the building is a total loss, which means many families and residents will be displaced losing everything in the major fire.

Buchanan City Fire Department truck on site, March 15 2021, Photo by Nik Sanchez

The fire started around 11am Monday and continued to not extinguish until after 5pm, many firefighters battled the fierce fire with aid from other townships and villages. A total of 8 fire departments and 14 fire trucks had to be called to help Buchanan City Fire Department put out the fire and maintain safety for the public.

While all this was going on, Buchanan Church of the Nazarene was used as a first response center to help shelter displaced families and provide meals and blankets. The Salvation Army of Niles and the Red Cross also played a pivotal role in giving aid and helping families set up shelter for the next few days, as well as setting up aid with finding places to live. Kenda Hixenbaugh who represented the Salvation Army stayed at the church and made sure everyone was okay to the best of the situation. She claims rental assistance and any other type of aid that is needed will be met, these people are not alone in this.

Post-Tragedy Evidence, March 15 2021, Photo by Nik Sanchez

All the churches of Buchanan have come together to create donation drives for the displaced families, they all stand together in this tough time. Michigan Community Gateway Foundation at 111 Days Ave in downtown Buchanan, open Mon-Fri 9a-5p, is one of the collection points for donations (you can check their Facebook page for details on how to help). Redbud Area Ministries (RAM) is another local donation spot located at 708 N Red Bud Trail in Buchanan, they are open Tue-Fri 9a-1p and accept any type of donation (food, clothes, shoes, housewares, anything you think might help displaced families), also checkout their Redbud Area Ministries website and/or their Facebook page for more current needs.

“30 units in the building, 24 destroyed, others damaged, 46 persons displaced, of these 14 are kids, and some pets are also displaced with their families.”

Jan Nowak-Walters, RAM Executive Director

Being a resident of West Wind Apartments I have never witnessed anything like this, to hear so many sirens going off and seeing a building on fire scared me. I remember thinking “why can’t this fire be put out with water,” it seemed the water angered the fire into raging even more. I noticed a weird battery acid smell like electronics have been burnt or the smell of hair in the air being burnt frightened me even more. Watching the response teams rescue victims in the fire was quite amazing to witness, it was like watching the movie “Backdraft” from the 90’s. I remember looking up at the sky and started to notice that it was snowing, the snowflakes seemed large almost like it was ash from the fire, a volcano came to mind. Seeing everything unravel in front of my eyes reminded me of a warzone, all the debris from the rooftop being on fire to the broken glass everywhere; boarded up windows and burnt furniture is all that remains. What’s left is what the fire could not take with it.

Fire destruction of Building G, March 15 2021, Photo by Nik Sanchez

It was a sad day for the community of Buchanan, but an extraordinarily strong and positive day that shows our character and how people still care about one another. The teamwork was heartwarming and continues to grow to help these families try and find their life once again.

Firefighting Teamwork, March 15 2021, Photo by Nik Sanchez
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