Large fire erupts at east Detroit senior home; four injured
Detroit — A large blaze damaged a retirement home Monday night on Detroit's east side, displacing dozens of residents. It was the second fire of the day at a senior home on the east side; in the first, a 78-year-old man died, two women were hospitalized and a woman briefly went missing.
It wasn't immediately known what sparked the four-alarm fire reported about 7:30 p.m. at the 54-unit apartment building near Mack and Springle or how many people were inside at the time. A sign outside the complex identified it as the Reverend Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments.
Investigators determined 51 of the 54 units were occupied, and tenants might have had guests, Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell said. Many residents escaped and were waiting to be bused from the scene so they could be matched with lodging, but investigators are not yet sure if everyone is accounted for, he said.
"We’re working right now with the management, trying to get names of people and we’re matching them up" on a list, Fornell said.
Meanwhile, four tenants reported minor injuries, one firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion and three Detroit police officers were injured, authorities said.
Detroit police chief James Craig said at a press conference Tuesday the three injured officers would receive lifesaving citations.
"When we talk about our heroes who run toward danger, this is who we're talking about," Craig said of officers Janelle Thomas, Evelyn Doherty and Whitney Willis, all of whom sustained injuries during the rescue effort.
Embers that drifted from the front of the three-story complex sparked a second blaze at a building across the street, but crews quickly extinguished it, Fornell said.
Crews spent hours working to douse hot spots in the smoldering apartment building and were expected to remain through early Tuesday.
"It's going to be a long night," Fornell said Monday, adding that arson officials are investigating the cause.
As fire, police and EMS vehicles descended on the scene, neighbors gathered to watch and snap pictures of the blackened ruin.
Jacqueline Roby stood across the street with her phone, awaiting word on a friend's mother who lived in the building. She hoped to bring water for displaced tenants.
"These are senior citizens and I don't wish this on my worst enemy," Roby said. "It's really sad."