First responders honored 5 months after Southgate senior apartment fire

'That's why we all do this... to help people in every way that we can'
Posted at 10:47 PM, Mar 06, 2024

SOUTHGATE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Roughly five months after a devastating fire at a senior living center in Southgate, the first responders who saved the day are getting recognition.

The fire happened on Oct. 3, 2023, at the Meadows of Southgate and left nearly 130 seniors displaced. It’s the largest fire ever recorded in the history of the city of Southgate.

With smoke billowing in the distance, dash camera video showed police officers racing to the scene. With dozens of residents still stuck inside, the officers ran into the burning building without fire gear. Many residents were unable to walk stairs, so officers carried them one by one.

Body camera footage captured many of the rescues including one by Sgt. Nicholas Merony with the Southgate Police Department.

"Probably at least four or five I carried out by myself," Merony said. "Then our shift carried everyone else out together.”

Merony is one of many officers, firefighters and staff members honored Wednesday during a ceremony at Southgate City Hall. They were given medals for their heroic acts, while their bodycam footage was shown to the crowd.

“To see that video this evening during the ceremony brought tears to my eyes,” Wyandotte Police Officer Jorden Judge said.

Judge is one of two Wyandotte police officers who responded, carrying out multiple seniors in a smoke-filled building with limited oxygen.

“Because of the actions of Officer Judge and Officer Kyle Gouth, we would not have had 0 fatalities,” Southgate Public Safety Director Joe Marsh said.

Once outside, Judge had trouble breathing. She and other officers began receiving oxygen.

“Immediately after I received the oxygen, I went down,” Judge said.

As firefighters continued to fight the blaze, Judge was rushed to the hospital where she was immediately intubated.

“Officer Judge was injured to the point medics deemed she needed to go to the hospital, and then they told me she was in serious condition," Marsh said. "That’s scary.”

“Ultimately, it was scary being in the hospital not knowing what was going on. And having three small children, I was worried about them,” Judge said.

After 24 hours on a ventilator, Judge eventually discharged a few days later and was at home when she saw on 7 Action News an interview with senior resident Johnny Murphy.

"The cop, she came in, she grabbed me. I'm like 'What's going on,'" Murphy said during the interview the day of the fire.

“I immediately recognized him," Judge said. "I was like man, I was able to help him to safety, and it felt good. It felt really good.”

Judge was that officer who carried Murphy to safety. His story of survival, along with countless others, is the real award these first responders will always cherish.

“That's why we all do this," Judge said. "To help people in every way that we can.”