IONIA — Carmen Cahill and her daughter Jordan were shopping at one of their favorite Ionia stores Wednesday afternoon when they had to leave in a hurry.
The Ionia mother and daughter were inside Auction Addict’s Attic at 524 W. Lincoln Ave. (M-66) around 4 p.m. when the secondhand furniture store caught on fire.
“I go in there all the time,” Carmen said. “We were in the back looking at stuff and then we went into the middle of the building because there was a wicker rocker I wanted to buy. I went up front to tell them I wanted it. About the time we did that … (store owner) Lisa (Pope) was outside and she was like ‘oh my gosh, something’s on fire.’ It was small smoke at that time, rolling out the back end of the store.”
“She (Lisa) went to grab her fire extinguisher and stuff started popping (probably lightbulbs from the heat) and she was just like everybody get the heck out of here,” Jordan interjected.
“So we all flew sideways and got out of there as fast as we could,” Carmen exclaimed.
“By that time it was already lit up,” Jordan added.
Dan Walcutt, who works at the store, said employees had just plugged a refrigerator in when they smelled something.
“We saw smoke coming out the back,” he said. “We opened up the door and the ceiling was just engulfed. Not even five minutes it was all that way (he gestured toward the burning building as he stood across the street). The light bulbs were popping.
“We’ve got storage units and we just picked up 12 storage units two weeks ago,” he added sadly.
Pope stood across the road with dozens of other onlookers and watched as firefighters from the Ionia Department of Public Safety, Berlin-Orange Township Fire Department, Saranac Fire Department and others responded to the blaze. A thick haze of smoke hung over the downtown, changing from gray to black and back again and making it difficult to breath at times.
Pope rented and now owns the store a total of about 10 years. She said the property is insured and everyone was able to exit the building safely.
“It’s definitely an old building,” she said as she watched in shock.
“I won’t know (what I lost) until later,” she added, unable to say much more.
The fire was still going into the early evening as the Daily News went to press.
Ionia friends Matthew Audia, 12, and Grayson Shook, 11, rode their bicycles down the sidewalk to watch firefighters attack the blaze.
“We were at his (Shook’s) house and we saw all this smoke and so we came down here and there were just flames going out the window,” said Audia, adding that it was “very cool” to watch the firefighters in action.
“The smoke was all the way over there,” said Shook pointing up M-66. “It’s crazy!”