Up in flames

April Fool's Day joke starts fire at Campus West

By Hannah Lentz and Sarah Hillenbrand | 4/19/15 5:59pm

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GVL / Courtesy - WoodTV8 Kevin Ferrara


Originally published 4/2/15

What started out as a April Fools' Day prank soon resulted in fire-fighting crews from Georgetown, Wright-Tallmadge and Allendale Township working to put out a fire in the Campus West apartment complex across from Grand Valley State University.

According to Capt. Dave Pelton from the Allendale fire and rescue department, the flames started at approximately 9:15 a.m. on Wednesday after a small firework was ignited indoors. Several female students tossed the lit firecracker at their roommate which then landed in a laundry hamper, causing the fire at 4932 West Campus Drive apartment. The building was evacuated.

Nichol Garnsay, property manager at Campus West, said the fire department arrived quickly and took control of the situation.

"(The tenants) called 911 first, thankfully," Garnsay said. "We headed out there with fire extinguishers until the fire department got there."

The fire was contained by emergency personnel, preventing it from spreading to the surrounding apartment units. There have been no reported injuries, and the rest of the residents in the building were able to return to their apartments the same day.

"The lesson to be learned here is don't play with fireworks," Pelton said. "It can have negative results."

Garnsay said there was some structural damage to the upper level of the unit and some of the drywall, but there was no damage to other units.

"They're starting repairs tomorrow, so hopefully it will be done in a few weeks," Garnsay said. "We don't have a specific timeline for when the repairs will be completed."

Campus West doesn't require renter's insurance, Garnsay said, but the students will be held responsible for the damages. The students will stay in a model until the repairs on their unit are completed.

Though the fire took place at an off-campus location, Grand Valley Police Department personnel also reported to the scene to offer university assistance to the residents of the damaged apartment. GVPD also gives the students' names to university officials in case they need further support.

"We will respond to near-campus housing units where Grand Valley students may live to check to see if university help is needed in the case of a crisis," said Capt. Brandon DeHaan of GVPD.

In most emergency situations in off-campus locations, the local sheriff's department, fire department and the police department will report to the scene, as well as a GVPD officer for support, DeHaan said.

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