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The fire that ripped through three homes in Grosse Pointe Monday night originated in a home that was being renovated, and more than 12 hours later, crews were still on site putting out hot spots.

Ted Mack had just returned to his Grosse Pointe home from work about 9 p.m. Monday when he noticed an unusual orange glow radiating from across the street.

A fire had sparked at a vacant home on Washington then, within minutes, engulfed a neighboring house — illuminating the night sky and emanating heat across Mack's driveway.

"I have never seen a flame that intense," he said.

Hours after its start, firefighters still were working early Tuesday to extinguish hotspots and the final remnants of the massive blaze that destroyed one house left a shell of another as well as affected at least one other near Kercheval. 

The fire started in a house under renovation and spread to two neighboring homes, said Stephen Poloni, director of public safety for Grosse Pointe. That house and the one next door were believed to be total losses, while a third appeared to have significant damage, the department reported.

There were no injuries. The home being renovated was empty, the people next door were able to get out immediately, and a woman in the third home was pulled to safety by neighbors, Poloni said.

City authorities are working to determine the cause of the fire, and gas has been shut off at the house where it originated, an investigator said at the scene. Poloni said Tuesday that Michigan State Police would handle the investigation, as Grosse Pointe has no arson investigator.

Crews were still on site just before noon, more than a half-day later, Poloni said. There were still hot spots at the site that needed to be extinguished.

Crews from all five Grosse Pointes as well as St. Clair Shores responded to battle the blaze and were expected to remain through the morning, authorities said.

Detroit firefighters also were called in to assist, Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell said.

As soon as he spotted flames engulfing the two-story brick home beside the vacant structure where he'd spotted crews working early Monday, Mack rushed there and banged on the door to alert the longtime resident. The woman had been reading and wasn't aware fire coursed through her upper level, neighbors said.

Mack escorted the resident to his wife, Cynthia, moved her car, and returned to the house to find the woman's cat as firefighters arrived. At one point, "the flames were shooting up twice as high as the house," he said. "It was frightening."

Emergency personnel found the resident's pet, which was transported to a veterinarian for treatment, the woman said.

Meanwhile, neighbors watched from the tree-lined street as firefighters doused the blazes with tower cranes.

"It's crazy," said one woman who lives nearby and spent about 45 minutes at the scene.

Twitter users posted images of bright orange flames ravaging at least two multi-story residences as neighbors stood nearby.

“Attempting to save this house, not going well,” one user wrote.

American Red Cross officials had not yet received calls for assistance from those affected, an employee said.

There was no immediate report of injuries, evacuations or street closures.

Cynthia Mack and other neighbors who braved the chilly air to watch fire crews moved their hoses were grateful no one died.

"We'll do a lot of praying tonight," she said.

Detroit News Staff Writer James David Dickson contributed

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