Gratiot reopens after vacant apartment building blaze

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

East-siders hoping to make their morning commute via Gratiot had to seek alternate routes Tuesday morning, but just before 11 a.m., the road was reopened in both directions.

Gratiot had been closed in both directions at Seneca as firefighters mounted a defensive effort against a blaze at a vacant apartment building. It has since been extinguished and the companies fighting it have pulled out, said Dave Fornell, deputy commissioner of the fire department.

The Detroit Fire Department was dispatched to the fire at 5711 Seneca about 6:07 a.m. and arrived to find “heavy fire coming out of the roof and windows.”

The attack on the fire at the three-story, U-shaped building quickly became a defensive effort, Fornell said. There is an occupied home next door that was threatened for a time, but now is believed to be safe. A 95-year-old woman had to be evacuated from that home, but will be able to return, Fornell said.

The two-alarm fire drew more than 50 firefighters to the scene. Both north and southbound Gratiot are closed, and fire hoses line the street. When the 8 o’clock shift change occurs, there will briefly be even more firefighters in the area.

Arson investigators were also on scene.

Fornell said the building ablaze had been vacant “for over 20 years,” and said not enough was known at this point to suggest any type of pre-Devil’s Night activities afoot.

“It’s hard to link that until investigators get involved,” Fornell said. “Who owns the building? Is it insured? Until that gets put together, it’s awful hard to figure out. They get fires in this area all the time.”