Pokemon Go players spot deck fire, save Royal Oak dog

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

“Pokemon Go,” the augmented-reality smartphone game, has led to reports of targeted robberies and trespassing, but on Wednesday in Royal Oak, it may have saved a dog’s life.

Fiancees Patrick Awdish, 24, of Lake Orion and Katelyn Zack, 21, of Ray Township were walking in a neighborhood, playing the game, when they spotted a house’s deck on fire and called 911, according to a press release. The Fire Department arrived within minutes, putting out the fire with minimal damage and no harm to a 10-year-old flat-coat retriever named Stanley, who was home alone.

“We were just in the right place at the right time,” Zack said.

Randall Bishop, owner of the home in the 4100 block of Grandview, however, might disagree.

“If it wasn’t for that game and the people who were playing it, I absolutely would not have a house or a dog right now,” Bishop said.

After walking through Birmingham looking for wedding venues, Audish and Zack went to dinner in Royal Oak. Audish had downloaded “Pokemon Go,” and the couple decided to try out the game where players are encouraged to walk around their community in search of virtual monsters to collect. While playing, they wandered into a neighborhood park.

“We saw some smoke,” Zack said. “We thought it was a bonfire or someone was barbecuing, but as we got closer, we realized it was too close to the house and saw the deck on fire.”

Around 8 p.m., firefighters arrived and put out the blaze on the backyard’s wooden deck using a garden and fire hose, according to a fire report. About 25 square feet, a quarter of the deck was damaged and a sliding door’s screen mesh and a plastic telephone box attached to the home’s rear had melted.

Bishop and his family were not home at the time, as they were attending his son’s baseball game.

Investigators are still looking into how the fire began, though arson is not suspected, acting Fire Chief Jim Cook said.

“Had they not been playing that game, (the fire) certainly could have expanded to the house,” Cook said. “Why else would’ve they walked into that neighborhood?”

Bishop said he is grateful the couple called the fire department, adding his family are fans of the mobile app, too.

Although there are reports of “Pokemon Go” helping to catch suspects, police departments across the country have issued trespassing tickets for players walking into unlawful areas, and in Missouri, four teenagers were arrested for allegedly using the game’s “beacon” feature to attract players and then rob them.

“I don’t think it’s the game,” Zack said in response to the reports. “It’s a people issue. People should be aware of their surroundings as is.”

The city of Royal Oak is monitoring players’ use of the game at a Pokemon gym next to its city hall, where players can congregate and compete. It is still trying to determine if it is a community opportunity or a dangerous threat to public safety, according to the news release.

Cook, however, said he is now a fan of the game, though he does warn players to be careful of where they walk. He added the department is looking into giving Awdish, Zack and possibly Pikachu a citizen award.

“We’re thankful for (the app),” Cook said. “Game on, Pokemon.”


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Twitter: @RightandNoble