Displaced Phoenix cooperative resident reflects on experience
Environmental biology junior Jordan Brandel was one of four Phoenix cooperative residents whose room was completely destroyed in a fire brought on by fireworks. Brandel has been crashing with roommates in Phoenix and staying with friends at Hedrick cooperative until his room is livable.
It’s been days since flames ripped through Phoenix cooperative house, and for the majority of its residents, life is back to normal.
But for environmental biology junior Jordan Brandel, whose room was completely destroyed, the living situation remains far from ideal.
“For now, my life’s kind of a mess,” Brandel said. “I sort of just live out of my laundry basket and my school bag.”
Early on Sept. 4, authorities responded to a fire they’ve since determined was caused by stray fireworks at Phoenix, 239 Oakhill Ave. The flames completely destroyed four bedrooms on the cooperative’s second floor, including Brandel’s, and caused significant water damage in many of the other rooms.
For the time being, he’s gone between staying with a friend at Hedrick cooperative house, 140 Collingwood Drive, and crashing with various roommates who are back in Phoenix.
Environmental Biology and Zoology junior Jordan Brandel poses for a portrait with his belongings, Sept. 15, 2013, in the living room of the Phoenix cooperative, 239 Oakhill. Brandel, whose room was damaged in the fire, has been moving between the room of a friend in the Hedrick cooperative, 140 Collingwood, and another roommate within Phoenix. Danyelle Morrow/The State News
Brandel said the rooms with the worst damage require replacing walls and parts of the ceiling. Although most of his clothing got the brunt of the water damage, he said he was able to grab his valuables before he evacuated.
“I went upstairs to my room, I grabbed my backpack, I grabbed my computer, my electric guitar and my favorite pillow and I got the hell out of there,” Brandel said.
East Lansing Fire Inspector Don Carter, who found pieces of fireworks on the property, said he does not believe the damage was intentional. He said residents had been releasing fireworks from the southern end of the roof, where the fire initially started.
“There was physical evidence on sight, and occupants there told me there had been fireworks as well,” Carter said. “We don’t think anyone had the intention to do anything terrible, it was accidental.”
Despite moving around from place to place, Brandel said other cooperative members have made him feel welcome. He said Phoenix residents have gotten help from neighbors as well, even receiving meal vouchers from MSU to eat in the dining halls.
“I never feel like I’m really put out,” he said. “I’m homeless right now technically, but I don’t feel like I don’t have a home.”
Brandel said his displacement, along with other residents, has left him thankful for compassion within the community.
“The great thing about the co-op system is there’s been a tremendous sense of community since this whole thing has taken place,” Brandel said. “It’s been really great to have some support around here, so many people who care.”