When Michele Treptow awoke to voices, she thought someone was in her house.
Looking out her bedroom window in the predawn darkness, she saw flames shooting from the kitchen window of the group home next door at 108 Eastwick Court in north Macon.
“It looked like something out of a movie, honestly,” Treptow said. “I’ve never seen a fire before and we quickly got up and out of our house and all the firetrucks were outside.”
Macon-Bibb County firefighters got the call just before 5:50 a.m. as alarms sounded in the Helping Out People Environments facility that is home to adults with developmental disabilities.
“We can say luckily that no one got hurt,” owner Michael Washington said at the scene. “We’ve got a great team.”
Four clients and a caretaker were inside the house when the smoke detector went off.
The worker got all the residents out safely, including one who uses a walker.
With temperatures in the mid-30s, they huddled in a car down the street as fire crews put out the flames.
Battalion Chief Jeff Sanders said they found heavy smoke and flames shooting from the roof of the two-story house when they arrived.
“Thankfully, everybody was outside so we had nobody injured,” Sanders said. “They had smoke detectors and smoke alarms that sounded and got everybody up.”
Crews contained the flames to the kitchen and laundry room area at the left side of the house.
“They responded so quickly,” Treptow said. “My husband said they put the fire out in no time at all, thankfully.”
Fire investigator Lt. Ben Gleaton said the fire started in a dryer, which was running at the time.
Washington is looking for temporary housing for the residents while repairs are made on the home, which is not far from Interstate 75 near Bowman Road..
“They’re family. We’re going to keep them together and we’re going to make sure we do everything we can to make their situation a lot easier,” he said.
He credited the alarm system and regular fire drills, including ones after 1 a.m., for the smooth evacuation of the home
He recommends other group home administrators follow the same safety precautions.
“The staff that was on duty did an excellent job,” Washington said. “Once they found out smoke was in the house, they went out and got all the individuals out.”