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Westland couple dies in apartment fire

Charles E. Ramirez
The Detroit News
Back and Kelley

A weekend fire at a Westland apartment complex that killed a young couple and injured several others appears to have started in another unit's kitchen, officials said Monday.

Ben Kelley and Lisa Back died in the fire, which broke out Saturday night at the Woodland Villa Apartments near Warren Road and Central City Parkway.

A GoFundMe page has been started to help the couple's families pay for funeral expenses.

As of 1:30 p.m., the page had raised more than $20,000.


Firefighters received calls about the blaze at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, said Westland Fire Chief Michael Stradtner.

"There was a tremendous amount of fire and smoke coming from the building when we got there," he said. "The fire was very, very intense and we could not make entry into the building."

He said the building sustained a lot of structural damage, which caused stairways and floors to collapse. 

Stradtner said there were eight people suffering from smoke inhalation and injuries. Seven people were taken to hospitals to be treated.

"Some people had jumped out of upper floor windows to escape the fire," he said. "We also had three residents who needed to be rescued from back balcony area because they couldn't get through their hallways."

Firefighters from neighboring departments were called in to help contain the fire, Stradtner said. 


By 3 a.m. Sunday, the blaze was under control. Firefighters couldn't safely enter the building until daylight, he said, and that's when they found the bodies of Kelley and Back in their apartment, he said.

"They had succumbed to the smoke and fire and died," the chief said. "It's horrible."

He also said it appears the fire was accidentally caused by another resident of the apartment complex.

The resident told firefighters he put some chicken tenders in some oil on his stove top and then fell asleep, the fire chief said.

The man awoke and found his apartment on fire, he said. He sustained burns on his hands and feet, Stradtner said.