Western New Jersey

Man who escaped Phillipsburg fire has overcome other obstacles

Man who escaped Phillipsburg fire has overcome other obstacles

PHILLIPSBURG, N.J. - A man who escaped a fire in his apartment his sharing his story with 69 News.

"This was the burner that it started from, it just went up the wall and engulfed the cabinets," said Luke Garris standing in his charred, melted kitchen Wednesday.

The fire broke out when he was cooking Tuesday night.

"When I tried to put it out, it turned into an even bigger flame," he explained.

It happened just before 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in Garris' second floor apartment on Sitgreaves Street. The first floor unit is unoccupied. Officials ruled the fire accidental due to unattended cooking. Three firefighters were treated for non life-threatening injuries.

"It was pretty intense but I was covering my nose so I could make sure everyone was out and all the animals were out to safety," he said.

Everyone did make it out safely, including Garris' brother's girlfriend and her baby who were also in the apartment.

"I made sure they was out first so they didn't breathe the smoke at all," he said.

Garris lost just about everything in the fire, but this isn't the first obstacle he's been forced to face in his life.

"I was born with renal failure and wasn't supposed to live past 13 and I had over 15 different surgeries," said Garris, who is now 30 years-old. "The main thing I was worried about was my medicines because I'm actually currently going through my third kidney transplant."

He was able to get new medication and is currently staying with family.

Despite everything he's been through, he has an optimistic outlook.

"The stuff that I've already been through with life as it is and I try just to keep myself strong by having a good support system," he said.

As he was looking through what little is left of the burnt apartment, he came across a pleasant surprise.

"Oh shoot, I believe this is my cousin's crayfish," he said, spotting some movement among the rubble. "He must have survived the fire because he was upstairs, 'cause we both had fish tanks."

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