Fire victims find hope among burned out apartments

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Buchanan, Mich. As residents sorted through the rubble of a badly burned Buchanan apartment building Thursday, some uncovered unexpected hope.

35 people lost their homes in the blaze that destroyed a 16-unit building of the Parkside Terrace Apartments on North Red Bud Trail Wednesday night.

Hours after firefighters put out the last hot spots, they made some startling discoveries -- several animals who were inside at the time of the blaze survived.

"They found two cats this morning, a kitten and then a turtle," said Buchanan Firefighter Evan Cauffman.

Cauffman made a surprising discovery himself when he was searching for hotspots after a neighbor spotted smoke coming from some of the units. He found a pug sitting in the middle of a burnt out living room, seemingly unharmed.

"I just put my hands on the windowsill just looking in the apartment to see if there were any other spots and I see this dog now next to me," Cauffman said. "And, just complete surprise."

The pug's name is Tutu and his owners were out of town attending a wedding when the fire broke out. Family members broke the bad news over the phone, telling the couple they'd lost everything. So, the couple's family greeted Tutu with tears of joy and plenty of petting after they got word he survived the next day.

"It makes it all worth it," Cauffman said.

And, victims of the fire had other reasons to smile Thursday, too.

On just about every corner in downtown Buchanan, high school students were collecting cash to help families recover.

In just about three hours, they racked up more than $1,300 in donations from people who were just driving by.

"I just want to cry," said Buchanan High School student Bailey McCarty. "Everybody's so generous."

All of the money was donated to the Berrien County Chapter of the American Red Cross.

Ben Sadler, who runs Ben's Backyard BBQ, is also donating to the cause.

He runs a hot dog stand and decided to give all the proceeds to the victims.

"I had a friend whose house burned and he lost everything. So, it brings back some not so pleasant memories from that," Sadler said. "But, it kind of stirs up the inside that says you got to do what you can do."

Sadler plans to open his hot dog stand again at 10:30 a.m. Friday and donate the day's profits to the fire victims.

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