‘I Didn't Think Anything of It': Fire Breaks Out at Apartment Building Amid Scheduled Fire Alarm Test

A resident who had been told of a scheduled fire alarm test was surprised to see "huge, tall flames"

Residents of a northwest Indiana apartment building were expecting a fire alarm test Monday when, to the surprise of many, an actual fire broke out.

A smoky blaze raced through the top floor of The Lakes at 8201 apartment complex just after 9 a.m. at U.S. Highway 30 and Polo Club Drive in Merrillville.

Residents had received a notice that fire alarms and sprinkler systems at the building would be tested throughout the day, so when the alarms started blaring, many assumed it was a test. 

“I am getting ready for work and the fire alarms go off,” said resident Julie Sipek, who lives on the third floor. “I didn’t think anything of it because we were told that today they were testing the alarms from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and to be prepared for it. So I just continued getting ready.”

That’s when Sipek said a neighbor knocked on residents’ doors alerting everyone that it was not a drill.

“I got outside and there was huge, tall flames and it’s been creeping closer and closer to our unit,” she said.

Part of the multi-building complex continued to burn as firefighters from as far away as Crown Point and Griffith poured water on the flames.

The Merrillville Fire Department reported no injuries in the blaze, but a number of units appeared destroyed. Residents say nearly three dozen families are displaced.

"Life is not lost," said resident leslie McMorris. "I'm still here, I can be thankful for that."

The property's manager declined to comment, but said she is thankful no one was hurt. The Red Cross is assisting displaced families.

The cause of the fire remained under investigation Monday. 

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