Loretta McLaughlin called for help shortly after 10 p.m. when there was a strong chemical odor in her apartment at 18119 Shady Ridge Court in the Woodland Ridge Apartment complex.
Spring Lake Township Fire Marshal Brian Sipe said firefighters searched her apartment and the building, but were unable to locate anything. McLaughlin had her door open and most of the smell was gone when they arrived.
As firefighters were leaving they spotted a fire in the backseat of a car in the parking lot, Sipe said.
“The guys busted a window and put it out with a fire extinguisher,” he said.
The car was McLaughlin’s, and she had just put a hamper of recently laundered cleaning cloths inside the vehicle.
Sipe said that McLaughlin had brought the cloths home from her restaurant to wash them. She did not realize the smell was coming from the laundry.
The fire marshal said there was possibly a chemical reaction involving bleach and degreaser on the rags.
The cleaned rags eventually caught fire when the plastic hamper they were in was put inside the car. The hamper melted, burned the seat and scorched the ceiling of the car, Sipe said.
McLaughlin could not be reached for comment prior to press time. She owns the Pine Street Café in Ferrysburg.
Sipe said they planned to continue investigating the incident today.