Daily Star photo/KATIE ROHMAN Luke Jones’ home at 701 North Fourth St., Niles was damaged in a fire Sept. 26. His family of five is temporarily staying in a hotel; they don’t know where they are going next.

Archived Story

Some fire victims without insurance

Published 4:03pm Monday, October 3, 2011

Luke Jones couldn’t believe the fire trucks he was seeing in his neighborhood were there because of something happening at his home.

“I kept saying, ‘That can’t be our house,’” said Jones, 47, who has lived at 701 North Fourth St. in Niles for a little more than two years.

Jones and his wife, Anitra, 34; daughters, Brittiany, 17, and Lashonda, 15; and son, Jordan, 9, are currently without a place to live after a fire damaged their house Monday, Sept. 26. They are staying at the Niles Inn until the end of the week, but Jones said he doesn’t know what will happen after that. Their home is not habitable in its condition, but they will be able to return once it is restored.

“We just don’t have anything right now,” he said.

Jones had homeowners’ insurance, which includes fire protection, but he let his policy lapse before the fire.  Jones is on disability because he injured his knees after falling out of a tree while working for a tree service company.

The fire occurred at about 3:20 p.m. One of his daughters was the only person home. A neighbor across the street called 911.

“When she saw it, it was too late,” Jones said. “My daughter said she was heating up some grease to fry some french fries.”

They are not sure the exact cause of the fire, but his daughter may have fallen asleep while waiting. Their two small dogs likely woke her up; the smoke alarms, although operational, did not go off and his daughter didn’t smell smoke.

Jones picks up his wife, a factory worker, every day in New Troy, Mich. They usually return about 3:30 p.m.

“That day, we stopped to test-drive a car,” he said.

The Joneses then noticed a missed call on their cell phone. When Anitra tried repeatedly to return the call, it kept going straight to voicemail.

“I kept it in my mind, but I kept thinking, ‘nothing can be wrong,’” Jones said.

The school bus would usually have dropped off his son, but that day, the fire trucks prevented the bus from coming through.

Jones’ daughter made it out of the 1,000-square-foot, four-bedroom house OK, but the kitchen and dining room are destroyed. The fire inspector estimated the total loss at $30,000.

The family was only able to salvage the silverware from the fire-affected areas; they lost all cabinets and appliances.

The Joneses received a three-night voucher for a hotel from the Red Cross. They also applied for emergency relief from the Department of Human Services, but they applied when its office was out of power due to a storm. They were still waiting to hear back from DHS at press time.

Niles Fire Chief Larry Lamb explained that although the firefighters work to salvage as much of buildings as possible, sometimes insurance will require the buildings torn down.

“We always try as hard as we can to limit damage,” he said. “In this case, the guys did a good job so they can get back in their house sooner. If it would have been a few minutes later, it would have been gone.”

Lamb said he sees cases like Jones’ more in multi-family home or apartment complex fires, where the landlords don’t have proper insurance.

However, the chief explained that the NFD may start to see more fires at uninsured homes given the poor economy.

“A lot of the occupied ones, we’ve started to see more of that,” Lamb said. “I know that we’ve had a few. One was not occupiable.

“I would imagine now it’s going to be more,” he said.

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