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Posted on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 3:15 p.m.

Fire at former Pinball Pete's considered 'suspicious,' fire officials say

By Lee Higgins

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.


Flames shoot from the old Pinball Pete's building in Ann Arbor Saturday night.

Lon Horwedel |

There were no active utilities in the building, she said. And food containers with recent expiration dates were found inside, she said.

Neighbors told 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 Reach him at or 734-623-2527.



Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 12:14 p.m.

Here's a link to a detailed and long report on a disasterous fire that started via spontaneous combustion of oil soaked rags and resulted in the loss of a 38 story building:


Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 10:37 a.m.

Don't forget lightning and molten lava as natural (i.e. nonhuman) sources of fire. Not that either were the case here of course :)


Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 7:47 p.m.

okay...duane is correct...spontaeous combustion is not is the result of spontaeous combustion...once again, fire cannot start by is the result of something...a spark of electricity is just that...but it is not fire but can start a fire...oily rags can start a fire but the oily rags are not fire.


Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 4:53 p.m.

It still didn't start by itself. Human action, or in action if you want to call it that, started the rags on fire. Now we could talk about the burning bush as a possible fire that started on its own.

Duane Collicott

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 3:52 p.m.

"but it doesn't appear to have started by itself" I don't believe fire ever starts by itself.

dading dont delete me bro

Mon, Oct 26, 2009 : 3:13 p.m.

suspicious ya think? trash bin fires in ypsilanti... thompson building in ypsi we're still waiting to hear about...?