Officials: Seven displaced in fire that revealed meth lab


CHARLOTTE, MI (WLNS) – A fire investigation turned into a criminal investigation in Charlotte Wednesday morning.

The fire was called in around 2:30 a.m. at 123 North Clinton Street after residents smelled smoke in their apartment.

Now seven people are without a place to live.

As 6 News Christa Lamendola found out, a drug lab may have played a part in how the fire started.

“I can’t bring my kids back here. I can’t sleep here, it’s nasty and the roof’s falling down.”

It’s not what Heath Rhoden had planned Wednesday, moving his family out of their apartment, now soaking wet with the stench of smoke still in the air.

He was one of seven people inside the home when a fire started to spread.

“My dog woke my wife up, wouldn’t let her go back to sleep, she saw the smoke.”

At just the same time a Charlotte police officer driving in the area also saw the smoke and immediately went inside to get everyone out.

“He was pulling up and I flagged him down. He ran up there after I did. You could barely see upstairs there was so much smoke, and then pounded on the door,” said Heath Rhoden, displaced by fire.

“With a well-rounded effect from the tenants smelling smoke in the bottom apartment to the officer being at the right place at the right time,” said Tyger Fullerton, assistant fire chief, Charlotte Fire Department.

After the flames were out and firefighters went inside, the investigation turned criminal when they found a meth lab inside.

“We still have officers doing some follow-up on it at this time, but it is what appears to be some type of a drug related incident,” said Lisa Sherman, Charlotte Police Chief.

Police are still looking for the person who lived in the apartment where they say the meth lab was found.

As for everyone else they’re grateful they got out alive, but now have to find a new place to call home.

“I guess the Lord wanted us out today, so here we go, rain or shine, we’re leaving.”

The police officer involved was hospitalized for smoke inhalation but is doing okay. Fire officials say they don’t know the exact cause, but they do say it started in the kitchen of the apartment where officials found methamphetamine.

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