You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 8 a.m.

Early morning fire guts top floor of three-story home in Ann Arbor

By Cindy Heflin

An early morning house fire in Ann Arbor gutted the top floor of a three-story home converted into rental units.

Flames were shooting out the windows of the home at Main and Summit streets north of downtown, and it was engulfed in heavy smoke when firefighters arrived, Battalion Chief Chuck Hubbard said. A passerby noticed the fire and called 911 at 6 a.m.

091610_SUMMIT ST FIRE 1-1 LON.jpg

An Ann Arbor Fire Department investigator, right, talks with two men outside a house heavily damaged by fire this morning.

Lon Horwedel |

No one was in the unit where the fire started, and the tenants in an apartment on the second floor had already fled the home, Hubbard said.

"It was difficult going up the stairs, twisting and turning to get up to the attic area," Hubbard said. "It burned up the whole top floor."

Sixteen firefighters from five of the city's six fire units battled the blaze and had it under control within about 30 minutes, Hubbard said.

Firefighters don't know what started the fire. Investigators are at the house this morning, he said.

Hubbard did not have a damage estimate but said the second floor had smoke and water damage. The first floor was not affected. He did not know whether the home, which had been converted into about four rental units, had smoke detectors.

Contact Cindy Heflin at or 734-623-2572.


Tom Joad

Mon, Sep 27, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

That certainly looks like an unwarranted rental unit. Is there a fire escape for the folks living in the ATTIC?


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 8:59 p.m.

i lived in this house, in the 2nd floor apartment (it was 2 apartments at the time) from 2006 to 2008. we had the 2nd floor and attic (where the fire was). the stairs heading up to the attic are (were) ridiculously steep (as hubbard noted having difficulty with them). the crazy thing is, i can't *imagine* how the home was split into 4 units. at the time the home was rented to us by metro property services, though i don't know if they still own it. the kitchen on the 2nd floor was a rickety backyard add-on to begin with; it really doesn't seem as though it could be safely subdivided into a further 2 units with bathroom and cooking facilities. maybe this was negligence on the renter's part, but having lived there i really wouldn't put too much faith in the home's safety to begin with...


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

@ordmad you are stating half truths I do own rental property! yes i actually own rental property. Which I maintain very well and way above standards I have never received any citations nor have the inspectors found any violations. True, there is not a lot of profit unless you consider the taxes I don't pay because of the write offs and the equity I build. If you state you clear 5,000 a year per unit I figure your true profit is more like 15,000. I actually show a loss on mine and truly don't make any profit however it is paying for it's self and will show a tidy profit when I sell. The inspection is only 150.00 and if it rides us honest landlords of scumbags whome are in it for the quick buck and endanger our kids lives. Its money well spent. I have seen these rentals and talked to the landlords being a fellow landlord I don't know how they can live with themselves.


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 8:28 a.m.

Ms. Heflin Can you tell us if this 'attic area' (as referenced by the fire department) was occupied or was it just an attic?


Fri, Sep 17, 2010 : 1:15 a.m.

Thanks Bill. I actually drove by there today and saw the damage. Hopefully this won't be a total loss and the house for the most part can be saved. Just from driving by, it looked as if the first floor outside did't show any flame marks. Again great job AAFD!

Fat Bill

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:08 p.m.

@onlytruth, no this house is the one directly across E. Summit from the Summit Party Store. The house you are thinking of is on the SW corner of W. Summit and Main


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

"... The days of the "wink-wink" inspector are very long gone...." Not really. While I can't clearly say how much, overall, rental circumstances have changed in the last few decades, there has continued in recent years to be a noteworthy degree of unwelcome variability in the condition of leased homes as provided to tenants upon moving in. During city inspection, some conscientious landlords may be dealt a laundry list of rather minor violations, but other, less considerate owners seem to skate by despite a heavy emphasis on deferred maintenance. It's possible, though, that higher vacancy rates in campus neighborhoods over the last several years has had a generally beneficial effect on landlord maintenance habits, as now there's finally stronger market incentive to fix up the premises. I recall acolytes of developer Alex de Parry contending that the questionable state of older rental homes in Germantown was a major selling point for his Heritage Row project, and that some landlords who owned nearby houses feared the potential arrival of new residential units in pristine condition.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 5:05 p.m.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this the house right on the corner where all the "dirties" hang out? If so, I can only imagine how this fire started. I personally know several City Housing Inspectors and I can definitly say I have nothing but trust in the work that they do. Great job AAFD! Very happy that no residents or our wonderful Ann Arbor Firefighters were hurt in this blaze.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 3:46 p.m.

@ Tony Livingston: Where are you getting your information, Speechless? Clearly not from the experience of owning rental property. Yes, in fact, I've own one 3 unit house in Kerrytown for going on 7 years. I also have close friends who own others. It's a lot of work and, like it or not, no matter how perfect your place might be, its a rare day when the every two year certificate of occupancy inspection doesn't produce a violation. This year I got to spend over $1,000 on re-doing plumbing that the prior owners did -- and the city inspected and approved -- in 2001. That second visit to approve the plumbing re-do netted the city an extra $150, probably a little less than it cost for the 2001 inspection where they approved the very same plumbing.

Dominick Lanza

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 3:34 p.m.

Ok first the fire department did a great job lets remember that if they try to cut them again. Next I live in a rental apt city inspectors check everything smoke detectors, all the electric switches and outlets, dryer vents even sticks to block sliding windows that arent locked from being opened from outside. Most fires are accidents I am sure this one was the city fire department and housing inspectors do a great job making sure we are safe lets not be so silly to suggest banning furniture in a house thats not happening or suggested. While we are on the furniture on the porch subjest. It is an Ann Arbor issue not a student issue the majority of them are not residents or tax payers but they readily use all our tax supported services and several to excess like police and fire. They drain the city they dont have a right nor should they be heard. And for those who will say Oh the University brings employment to the city how many of thise employees live here let our elected officals decide about safety and astetics not some temporary residents


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:12 p.m.

@ Speechless: The days of the "wink-wink" inspector are very long gone. At several hundred dollars a visit, finding something wrong (even if another city inspector said it was done properly) is just too big of a cash stream. And, yes, at the end of 30 years, the tenants have bought the house of the landlord. The amount of time, effort, and risk involved in the enterprise makes this a proper reward. Everybody who has never bought and managed a rental property thinks it's easy. Everybody who has knows darn well its anything but.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

"Fires happen. Careless young adults often start them." Can you better define what you mean by that? How often is often?

Tony Livingston

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 12:11 p.m.

Where are you getting your information, Speechless? Clearly not from the experience of owning rental property.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 11:45 a.m.

"... Without fail, any story about anything to do with a rental property, and there's folks here blaming the landlords... Does anyone know that the City inspects every rental house every two years...." Some rental homes are provided to tenants in fine condition, while others are not. Among landlords, some city rental inspectors have been feared like Nurse Ratched, while other inspectors give them a friendly wink and apply the same standards as used to control gambling in Casablanca. To the contrary, the standard approach in this town has historically been to come down on tenants like Sgt. Joe Friday when disasters like this happen. Meanwhile, the responsibilities of landlords get brushed off with the good natured, look-the-other-way sensibility of a Sgt. Schultz. "... if they're lucky, on a house like the above, after taxes, the mortgage, and maintenance, they'd be lucky to make about $5,000 a year profit on a house like the one...." This old trope of an argument conveniently leaves out the fact that rent collected from tenants essentially buys the house for the landlord. After a series of renters over the years has covered the various costs related to purchase, the landlord can later sell the house and pocket the proceeds from the sale. Such a tidy profit! Especially back when housing prices shot through the roof, rather than fires, these feudal-era economic practices made campus slumlording quite the cash cow.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 11:13 a.m.

Actually, landlords face way more scrutiny from the city than any home owner does. There are inspections, outrageous fees, and forced repairs for any and every maintenance issue. Landlords are the favorite target for micromanaging and money grubbing by the city of Ann Arbor. If you don't believe me, call the city and register your place for rental. This will trigger the first of costly regular inspections where anything and everything can be viewed as a "violation" requiring repair and yet another inspection.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 10:17 a.m.

Without fail, any story about anything to do with a rental property, and there's folks here blaming the landlords. Does anyone know how this really works? Does anyone know that the City inspects every rental house every two years, which includes the inspection of every system from plumbing, to electric, to fire detection? Does anyone know that, almost without exception, the city always makes the landlord make some change or correction, even if its to something that was deemed "proper" during the prior inspection. Fact is, its all true, and a reliable income stream for the City. Fires happen. Careless young adults often start them. Doesn't mean the landlords are to blame. The vast majority keep their properties in good shape to keep themselves competitive and in business. And if they're lucky, on a house like the above, after taxes, the mortgage, and maintenance, they'd be lucky to make about $5,000 a year profit on a house like the one in this story.

Jay Allen

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:26 a.m.

@dagnyj you are right, it does NOT stop fires and that IS the point. Someone or something sets them and there are FAR-FAR-FAR more things that will burn faster than a couch. But we are getting off topic, I was being a smart alec and then forever21 just had to jump in. The ban on couches is ridiculous, period, end of story. You want to clean up the city, then SAY you are cleaning up the city and then include, trash cans, paper, recyclables, etc. Do not mask it it with an unfortunate death, get emotions all worked up and do an end run to your goal. \Back on topic/


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

@announcerman was I think making the point that a ban on couches does not prevent all fires. @forever, I agree and want to know why the city doesn't crack down on the slumlords who rent buildings that are rotting fire hazards to students. Oh, let me guess--the landlords have donated to mayor and council's election campaigns.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 9:02 a.m.

"Sixteen firefighters from five of the city's six fire units battled the blaze..." When you say six fire units, are you referring to fire stations? Because the city closed one of the fire stations years ago and there are now only 5.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

@theannouncerman, rather than making sarcastic comments maybe we should address the issue of fire hazards in rental properties. The owners of these houses/apartments let the places fall into disrepair far too often. There are multiple family homes all around the city just waiting to be the next to go up in flames. I think everyone remembers last year's tragedy. We need to hold the landlords accountable for maintaining the safety standards of their properties.

Jay Allen

Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 8 a.m.

Glad no one was hurt and sounds like an awesome job getting a large fire under control, quickly. Maybe we should have an ordinance to ban couches in apartments. That would have prevented this tragedy.


Thu, Sep 16, 2010 : 7:56 a.m.

We witnessed the firetrucks finishing up their work this morning. Looked like a massive fire with a lot of damage.