‘Devastating’ fire kills 1 in Sterling Heights

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

One person is dead, another was hurt and two firefighters required medical treatment after a fire at a Sterling Heights apartment complex late Wednesday night.

It was about 11:30 p.m. when the call for service came in; an engine that had just been clearing another run a half-mile away made its way toward the Sterling Knolls Apartments, where two buildings, eight units each, were ablaze in a “fully involved fire.” Sterling Knolls is just north of 15 Mile and east of Dodge Park.

“The fire was well-advanced when we pulled up on the scene,” said Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin. “It probably wasn’t immediately after the fire that we got the call; the fire had a head start on us.”

Whether smoke detectors at the building worked to the extent they should have will be reviewed, Martin said.

One person died in the blaze. Martin declined to release the person’s name or age. Another person, a woman believed to be in her 60s, was sent to the hospital for smoke inhalation. Two firefighters were treated for “heat-related injuries” and released, Martin said.

The fire was an all-hands-on-deck effort, requiring not only 25 firefighters from Sterling Heights, but another 15 from Warren and Shelby Township, but another 15 from Macomb Township, Fraser and Utica, who filled in at Sterling Heights fire stations for other runs. Four fire hydrants were utilized in fighting the fire.

By 1 a.m., the fire was under control, by 4 a.m. firefighters had left the scene and police secured the two buildings. At 8 a.m., investigators returned.

Chief Martin called the second-floor units in both buildings “a complete loss,” ruined by fire, smoke and water damage, while the first-floor units were “saturated” with water and smoke. When investigators have finished their work, the fire department will determine which units are safe enough for residents to return to and salvage items from, and will help in that effort.

“For a lot of them, it’s a total loss,” Martin said. “The ones I’ve talked to, so far, none of them had renter’s insurance.”

Martin said the city was “working with Red Cross to get (displaced residents) help, but a lot of them are going to need a lot of long term help. They’ve lost pretty much everything they had.”