Person of interest in custody after fire rips through Heidelberg Project's 'You' building
Detroit — Arson investigators are questioning a person of interest in connection with a Monday morning fire at a building that's part of the popular Heidelberg Project art installation.
Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell said the individual was taken into custody and that the city's fire marshal is on the scene of the east side blaze that broke out just after 6:45 a.m. at the project's "You" building on Mt. Elliott, south of Mack.
The person of interest, a 49-year-old woman, was arrested on a matter unrelated to Monday morning's fire, said Latrice Crawford, a Detroit Police Department spokeswoman.
At the same time, the city's water department is responding to reports that multiple hydrants — possibly five — near the scene were "bad" on Monday morning.
Fire crews had to search for a working hydrant and ultimately tapped into one near Meldrum and Benson, according to the dispatch call.
Fornell told The News that firefighters "did have some trouble with the hydrants" and that the water department is investigating.
"I did hear that they had some problems but don't know to what extent," said Fornell, adding that the water department will have to address the hydrants that may be defective.
Detroit Water and Sewerage Department spokeswoman Tiffany Jones said Monday that the department's most recent checks on Sept. 10 indicated that only one hydrant in the area was not operable and it was physically tagged and logged into a digital database.
The water department, she added, is still investigating the Monday reports from fire crews that other hydrants were not working. The office hasn't determined yet whether they are operable or not.
Pictures from the scene, taken by an area media outlet, show that the building's roof was compromised and several windows were busted out as a result of the fire.
The condition of the building is so dangerous, Fornell said, that public safety officials are bringing out heavy equipment to knock it down.
Dan Lijana, a spokesman for the Heidelberg Project, said it's "too early to speculate" as to the future of the burned building.
"This isn't the first time this project has dealt with fire, and every time we've emerged from it stronger," Lijana said. The structure that was burned was an art installation, he said.
Over a two-year span, Heidelberg dealt with a rash of a dozen fires, The News reported in 2015.
Heidelberg officials are working with law enforcement as the investigation into the fire begins. The fire comes as Heidelberg is working to acquire 29 properties in the neighborhood, in hopes of converting the area to an artist village.
Concerns over the hydrants come after The News reported a separate area of concern just over a week ago on East Outer Drive.
In that case, fire officials questioned why they were not notified of a water main replacement before arriving at a house fire at an east side home where a person was found dead.
The hydrants in that case had been dug up and lying in medians and sidewalks during construction involving the water main work. Fire crews realized that water sources nearby had been turned off.
Palencia Mobley, deputy director and chief engineer at DWSD, has said that the construction workers closed the waterline on Outer Drive during the replacement, but only for the block between Wavney and Willingford Street, where the fire occurred.