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Posted on Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

Ann Arbor fire aftermath: 'I'm so grateful' about dog rescue and resident safety

By Paula Gardner


The converted apartment building at 401 S. Division on Saturday, the day after it was damaged by fire.

Courtney Sacco |

An attempt to thaw frozen pipes started the fire that spread through a downtown Ann Arbor apartment building Friday night, fire officials said.

The fire at 401 S. Division displaced residents and prompted the rescue of two dogs, but resulted in no injuries, said Battalion Chief Randy Menard of the Ann Arbor Fire Department on Saturday.

A subcontractor for property manager Old Town Realty was using a very small version of a "salamander heater" to thaw the pipes, Menard said.

"It ignited a material that started a fire and traveled between the floors and walls," he said.

That worker immediately called 911 to report the fire, Menard said, and firefighters reached the building - a converted house of just under 3,000 square feet - by 6 p.m.

Three hours later, they'd stopped the blaze before the structure was destroyed. Menard also said many contents were saved, since smoke damage did not extend throughout the five-unit property.

However, at least part of the attic area of the building was damaged enough that the interior was left exposed on the south side of the property.

No residents or firefighters were injured, Menard added.

stan_after_fire.jpg reporter Ryan Stanton's dog, Stan, resting comfortably on a friend's couch about a few hours after being rescued Friday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

But the rescues of two pets remained at the forefront of the concern expressed by both residents and firefighters.

As firefighters arrived, "they were advised there were two pets inside," Menard said. "We sent in a crew to rescue them."

One of the dogs, Stan, is owned by apartment resident and reporter Ryan Stanton. He was on the scene quickly and took care of Stan.

The other, Moxie, belongs to University of Michigan graduate student Paige Safyer.

Moxie was rescued by firefighter Jason Gravelle, who also was in the news recently for his rescue of a cat during an Ypsilanti Township apartment fire.

Now Safyer - as she stays with friends and considers her next move until she can return to her apartment - is grateful that Moxie is safe. She plans to thank Gravelle for his effort to get her pet from the burning building.

She called him an "animal savior" and said she was so relieved that, after receiving a call about the fire, she found Moxie wrapped in a fire uniform in one of the rescue vehicles.

"I'm so grateful," she said.

Ann Williams of Old Town Realty said that she was headed back to the building by about noon Saturday. She was meeting clean up crews and an insurance claims adjuster, while also making plans to meet residents to find them temporary housing.

The American Red Cross also is assisting the eight residents with the temporary housing.

"We're glad to be safe, but worried about the difficulties involved with being displaced from a stable home for the upcoming semester," said Michael Kimiecik, a University of Michigan graduate student who lives in one of the upstairs units with two other graduate students.

The important thing, Williams said, is that "everyone is safe. People got out immediately."

The original need for the subcontractor on the site represents a common problem during the recent freeze, Williams said. Her company has responded to calls for at least eight other frozen pipes in recent days.

"We've never had this happen," she said of the fire.

City records indicate that the building's permit to be occupied as rental housing expired in June 2012. However, city officials also say that as long as a renewal appointment is made, an owner is not in violation. The building's stage in the renewal process was unclear on Saturday.

The owner of the property is Ouimet Group LLC, an entity registered to Mark Ouimet, former state representative in Michigan's 52nd district.

Ouimet said Saturday that his understanding is that requested work has been completed, and that Old Town was awaiting city re-inspection.

A damage estimate was not available on Saturday, Menard said. The property is valued at $614,000, based on the city assessment.

Residents are still assessing the damage to their contents, they said. Some were able to remove items late Friday.

Safyer said she's grateful to firefighters not just for their concern for her pet: Their actions to move contents out of the way of the blaze and cover them to stop the spread of the blaze also prevented more damage to her property.

"There could have been more damage," she said.

Moxie went to "doggie daycare" on Saturday while Safyer sorts out her next steps and plans to stay with friends in the short-term.

"It's pretty crazy," she said.

Ann Arbor fire crews were assisted on the scene by fire fighters from Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township.

The fire is the second campus-area apartment blaze to displace residents this month. On Jan. 13, a building in the 1300 block of Packard caught fire. City records indicated safety violations on its most recent inspection.


David Cahill

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 6:34 p.m., did this structure have a partial certificate of compliance under the city's housing code? It plainly did not have a full certificate of compliance. If it did not have a partial certificate, then allowing tenants to occupy it was illegal.

Silly Head

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

This doesn't sound like any of the implied reasons (both in the article and in comments)were the reason for this fire. It was not caused by a sloppy city process, a "converted" house, or a neglectful property owner. The cause was obvious and it was an accident - it could have happened in a new, two-year old house owned by God herself. (I had a frozen pipe in my newly built house a few years ago -- it split and caused a lot of water damage - where was the news van then?) We have had two recent dwelling fires in the city - and though unfortunate and scary, there is the proverbial rush to lay unmerrited blame - and then do further reporting on the insinuations that spin off from that. Tone is relevant here - as much as the facts.

David Cahill

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

So - Mark Ouimet owns this building. He failed as a politician. Hopefully he can rehabilitate himself by thoroughly rehabilitating this property. Hey, Mark, don't forget to enclose the pipes!


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 2:51 p.m.

Salamander heaters can be dangerous. Not sure what that has to do with inspections......


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 5:12 a.m.

Hmmm...The owner is " Ouimet Group LLC, an entity registered to Mark Ouimet, former state representative in Michigan's 52nd district." This doesn't look for him if he wants to get re-elected into office. Past inspection time is not good...(ROE...republicans!)

Urban Sombrero

Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 3:13 a.m.

Stan is such a cool name for a dog. He's so cute. I'm glad he and the other dog are safe. Property can be replaced but loyal pets can't.


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 4:19 a.m.

Now WHO would vote this down?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 10:41 p.m.

Hats off to all first responders who go into dangerous situations to recuse pets. Thank you,

Mike D.

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 10:30 p.m.

I recognize that pillow from a nightmare I had about the '80s. ;)


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

I think we need to hear more about this Gravelle hero....How about an in-depth article about him. Why is he the only one that is saving all these dogs and cats? He must be the only one that cares....


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 6:48 a.m.

"...He must be the only one that cares...." This comment does not deserve a rebuttal.


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

Was he wearing SCBA on this most recent double pet rescue? Don't leave the Fire Barn without it . . .


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

That would make Gravelle a safer Safyer savior.

Linda Peck

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 8:43 p.m.

I am very thankful for these brave men.

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 7:15 p.m.

Thanks again to the Ann Arbor Fire Department and the other responders on the scene. They did an amazing job last night. Without their good work, this could have been a lot worse.


Wed, Jan 30, 2013 : 9:34 p.m.

Ryan, the picture of Stan on the couch is beyond precious! Guboy!!


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

Ryan? Make sure you have a sticker in your window to make sure the FD know you have pets. We have two in our window. Glad to hear yours made it out safely.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:54 p.m.

Glad everyone is ok. What's troubling me is that, in this instance, and almost every other fire instance I read about, Ann Arbor needs assistance from other juisdictions. In this case, Ypsilanti City, Ypsilanti Township, and, of course, Pittsfield Township. I fully understand the Mutual Aid pacts that all area departments have in case they have a situation so large that they cannot handle it and need help. However, in this and many other instances, Ann Arbor should have had the manpower and equipment to handle a single structure fire. This was no biggie. As a resident of Pittsfield Township, I am not thrilled about subsidizing Ann Arbor when the city decides to spend tax dollars on other city "projects" while neglecting to fully fund and support basic safety services.


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 6:46 a.m.

tmc, you are probably receiving the better end of the deal. Just one example -


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 10:37 p.m.

TMC, I am also a resident of Pittsfield TWP. I have no problem with our fire department helping other departments when the need arises. There will be a time in the future that Pittsfield's fire dept. will require assistance from other departments and they will be there to help. I for one do not what to see one large department to cover Washtenaw Co. as each area has specific needs, but it is good to have back up when it is needed. That is what neighbors are for.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:53 p.m.

Thank you for this suggestion.We certainly have a number of converted houses serving as apartments in this town.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 7:02 p.m.

That's been a concern, too. We did write this story last week after the fire on Packard:


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 7 p.m.

How about seeing if the city is keeping up with important inspections?


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:49 p.m.

Ryan, with all the 19th Century and early 20th Century dwelling units in our city, there really needs to be an in-depth story about the fire danger. Active duty AAFD firefighters are reluctant to talk to the press. Put the word out that you're looking for retired AAFD to provide information.


Sun, Jan 27, 2013 : 2:46 p.m.

can we some how modernize the building and same time keep look and charm of 19th century buildings?