‘Bad move’: Candle starts fire at Shelby Twp. complex

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

A fallen candle, a couch and the opening of a doorwall on a first-floor unit all contributed to the growth of a fire that ripped through a Shelby Township apartment building early Monday morning.

Shelby Township Fire Chief James Swinkowski said it was about 2:30 a.m. when firefighters were alerted to the blaze. It all started when a tenant in a first-floor unit at Pebble Creek Apartments fell asleep with a candle burning. By the time he woke up, the candle had fallen over onto the floor, and part of a couch had also caught fire. Pebble Creek Apartments is north of Utica Road and east of Ryan.

Shelby Township Fire Chief Jim Swinkowski.
(Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

The man woke up his son, and the two tried to drag the couch out via the glass doorwall on the unit. But, said chief Swinkowski, “once they let the fresh air in, the couch started burning rapidly” as a result of the introduction of oxygen. That, the chief said, was a “bad move.”

The fire spread, burning up the apartment where it began, a unit on the next floor up, and eventually reached “a large section of the roof.”

Of the 12 units in the building, four were heavily damaged, two have some level of water damage, and six were “completely unaffected.”

It took more than an hour to control the fire, Swinkowski said, but firefighters remained on scene, “mopping up and clearing hot spots,” for hours, only leaving by about 7 a.m. The fire was tricky to fight, Swinkowski said, at the roof, because there was “no good way of getting up there.”

There were no injuries reported.