Nearly 100 senior citizens were evacuated from the Shelby Manors Saturday morning as Shelby Township fire crews fought to contain a 3-alarm blaze at the senior living center on Lakeside Boulevard, just north of Hall Road joff Schoenherr.
Shelby Township Bat. Chief Lance Watters said the fire at Shelby Manor started just before 8 a.m. Saturday in Building B. The fire was contained but not before four units on the second and third floors of the three-story building were severely burned.
Most of the residents were sleeping at the time.
"I was sleeping when I heard the water at first. I thought it was storming but then I realized there had been a fire. I grabbed my teeth and glasses and got out of there," said Oz Grobbel, 87.
Resident Albert Banyai told Patch he awoke to flames coming through his window, but instead of panicking, the 86-year-old calmly made his way out of the building.
"I am not scared so easily. I've fought the Russians during the Hungarian Revolution in 1956," he added.
Firefighters rescued 24 people from the building, many of them immobile or handicap. More than a dozen had to be rescued from their balconies using a ladder and bucket.
"They saved me," said retired St. Therese of Lisieux Pastor Leonard Sypinski. "They put me over the railing into the bucket and brought me down to the ground -- three floors." To hear a full interview with Sypinski, click here.
Only one minor injury was reported.
Residents of the complex were 55 and older. Many were bed-ridden or wheelchair bound.
"Definitely the life safety risk was very high because of the number of seniors in the building are not as mobile sometimes," Watters said. "A building like this is an intense manpower challenge."
Almost a dozen nearby fire departments assisted Shelby in the rescue mission. In addition, seven Shelby Township police officers who were first on the scene went into the blazing apartment building and pulled residents from their homes.
Firefighters have not said what caused the fire yet, but residents said it started when a furnace on the second floor caught fire.
"The guy whose furnace exploded knocked on my door," said resident Diane Cernava. "The smoke was so bad. It was just awful."
Cernava's apartment was lost in the fire.
"I don't know when I'm ever going back. I just feel sorry for those residents that are older than me," said the 62-year-old.
The Salvation Army and Red Cross is on scene assisting providing food and assisting residents who lost their homes to find shelter.
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