Fire at former Pinball Pete's considered 'suspicious,' fire officials say
Ann Arbor fire officials say the blaze that gutted the old Pinball Pete's near the University of Michigan campus Saturday night is considered suspicious.
Officials haven't determined whether the fire was accidentally or deliberately set, but it doesn't appear to have started by itself, Ann Arbor Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain said today.
There were no active utilities in the building, she said. And food containers with recent expiration dates were found inside, she said.
Neighbors told AnnArbor.com yesterday the building was a haven for young loiterers and possibly squatters.
The building hasn't been occupied since 2001 and was boarded up, but access could easily be gained to the upper floor, Chamberlain said.
The fire appears to have started in the northwest corner of that floor, according to Chamberlain.
The blaze on South University Avenue forced evacuations of nearby buildings, including the high-rise University Towers. More than 600 U-M students were evacuated, and four apartments had heavy smoke and water damage.
Chamberlain didn't have a damage estimate. Ann Arbor police detectives also are investigating.
"When we can't identify a natural cause to a fire, we generally bring the detectives in to help us," Chamberlain said.
Lee Higgins covers crime and courts for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2527.