Pine Ridge fire, aftermath was test for local agencies

As summer turns to fall, it is hard not to put the events of last season in the rear-view mirror. Long days at the beach, class reunions, weddings, they all seem to become a distant memory as the weather gets colder.

But some can’t quite close the book on one summer event. As of today, 139 residents of the Pine Ridge Apartments complex in Marquette have not been able to return home. Some of those displaced have been relying on the kindness of family and friends, still others are living in hotels, with several having no alternative but to accept temporary housing miles away from their homes.

The Marquette Housing Commission, whose one goal is to get residents back into their homes, according to MHC Housing Director Sharon Maki, has not been able to provide a specific timeline because investigations by several entities, permits, repairs and final inspections are all necessary steps in the process to make the building safe. And, unfortunately, all that takes time.

We applaud the MHC for voting to waive competitive bidding on the remaining building repairs last week, as well as the steps employees took to ensure residents in the temporary Red Cross shelter were placed in safe temporary housing.

It also is important to acknowledge the Marquette City Fire Department and emergency responders from surrounding communities who put out the fire and ensured all residents were safe; Marquette County Emergency Management; the Red Cross, which provided shelter for up to 45 people for 23 days following the fire; the Salvation Army which served three meals per day to those in the shelter; countless Marquette-area restaurants and retailers who provided many of those meals; all those who donated to the Pine Ridge fund at Range Bank and gift cards for the residents to purchase groceries upon return to their apartments; the Upper Peninsula Commission for Area Progress, or UPCAP, which provided updates for residents; as well as those who have volunteered their homes as temporary housing for residents and all those who have provided services out of the public eye.

Have there been glitches for many residents? Certainly. Could the lines of communication have been more open between residents and the MHC? Yes.

But experiences like this give us faith that Marquette County, when faced with a crisis, makes people its top priority. We hope to see a swift turn-around on building repairs so that residents can once again call Pine Ridge Apartments home.