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Meeting Helps Residents Cope With Smoldering Fear Of Fire

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Meeting helps residents cope with smoldering fear of fire


In the aftermath of last week’s fatal fire at Hikone Court Townhouses, social workers and fire-fighters tried to answer the concerns of the nearly 50 residents in a two-hour meeting Sunday.

"These people are really afraid and they have a right to be afraid,” said Sharon Selby, a social worker who works at the complex.

Firefighters suspect arson as the cause of last Tuesday’s blaze which killed two children and left their mother in critical condition with severe burns and smoke inhalation.

On the day the fire destroyed their home, James Layher, 3, was pronounced dead on arrival at The University of Michigan Hospital and his sister, Sharon Layher, 1, died the following day.

Their mother, Christine Wilson, 23, gave birth prematurely Friday to a baby girl while in the U-M Burn Center. Her husband, Mark Wilson, 23, jumped from a second-floor window during the fire and was only slightly injured.

The weekend meeting was organized by Selby and Nancy Moustakas, another Hikone social worker, in response to residents’ fears, which have mounted since the tragic fire.

“The bottom line is how do we stop this from happening in the future?” said Ann Arbor Fire Department Lt. Leroy H. Dibble Jr., a firefighter for 29 years whose talk drew the most response.

Common sense is the best weapon, he said. Residents should call the fire department immediately, according to Dibble. Many people get involved in extinguishing a fire “and no one remembers to call,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt for two, three, four of you to call.”

The overall message seemed to be that taking effective action as fast as possible was essential.

“Time is the big thing, ladies and gentlemen,” Dibble said. “Time is so crucial.”

Hikone residents were told to keep entrances clear, plan how to evacuate a house in case of fire, sleep with the bedroom doors closed, keep gasoline out of the house, and make sure that home smoke detectors are operational.

“A smoke detector is so important,” he said.

During the meeting, a fire prevention film for children was shown and other speakers, such as John Boshoven from Catherine McAuley Medical Center and Leora Bowden, director of rehabilitation for University of Michigan’s Burn Center, made presentations. Bowden’s talk focused on how residents could help Christine Wilson adjust once she returned home.