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Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 5:59 p.m.

Fire breaks out at apartment house in downtown Ann Arbor; pets saved

By John Counts


Firefighters battle the blaze at 401 S. Division in Ann Arbor Friday evening.

Courtney Sacco |

Smoke poured from a house in downtown Ann Arbor Friday evening as fire engines rushed to the scene.

The fire, which broke out shortly before 6 p.m., started in the basement, Ann Arbor Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard said.

“(It) worked its way up the walls and got up into the attic,” he said.

As of 6:15 p.m., firefighters were still working to get it under control, though no flames were visible. There were no reported injuries.

“We got everyone out," Hubbard said. "We had a couple of animals, we got them out.”

Two dogs were reportedly rescued from the building.

The house is broken up into five apartment units, one in the basement, two on the main floor and two on the upper level. Seven tenants live in the building total.

Firefighters had closed Division Street between Jefferson Street and William Street as they fought the fire.

The cause was not immediately known.

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John Counts covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.



Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:36 p.m.

Tail thumps of gratitude!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:28 p.m.

According to the city website, the property is owned by Ouimet Group, LLC. Old Town Realty appears to manage it on behalf of the owner.

Vivienne Armentrout

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Twitter followers know that reporter Ryan Stanton and his dog Stan were among those affected. Glad to know that Stan is okay, as is Ryan, apparently.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:07 p.m.

Nice headline; makes one wonder about the humans . . .

Paula Gardner

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:13 p.m.

If humans had been hurt, that would have been the headline.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

How about a follow up article. There were some good items raised, though they were speculation. We did learn the real cause of the fire. What have been the causes of the recent fires? What contributing factors in the structures made them potentially worse, or faster spreading? What are the housing codes and how do they deal with fire prevention? What can landlords in particular, and every one in general, do to better protect themselves? Or whatever...

Paula Gardner

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 6:15 p.m.

I just posted a followup to this fire. I agree that we need to follow this further. Part of the explanation for the spread of the fire was the construction, which allowed it to travel to the attic. That made me wonder more about dangers in the city's older housing stock.

Lizzy Alfs

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:25 p.m.

Can I just say, I'm incredibly thankful for firefighters and what they do.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

The WDIV report I saw blamed it on someone heating frozen pipes, possibly with a blow torch.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:53 p.m.

Thanks for the update! Another reason to question contractors about their methods.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:51 p.m.

You're joking. He was too dumb to look past the pipe and see what could catch fire and even better, to have an extinguisher, or two, handy? Wow.... Even a bucket of water and a laundry tub tap for refills...

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Yes, you're correct. It was a contractor heating a frozen pipe that started the fire. He also is the one who called 911.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

I wonder if items were stored around the furnace or water heater? It is important not to store cumbustables near a gas water heater or furnace, and I'm amazed at the number of UM students, (book smart) who have done this.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:29 p.m.

Complements to the AAFD again for doing a great job. Two apartment fires in a very short time -- first one had violated some regulations re: having fire alarms, etc. Is that the same case with this one. Very happy no one was hurt.

Chase Ingersoll

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:52 p.m.

Don't forget that this property is probably paying 7-8 thousand dollars per year in property taxes. If a fire starts in a wall or basement it probably has to do with a dryer or wiring. Clogged dryer vents are the number one cause of fires. Dr A certificate of occupancy inspection is probably not going to catch these because the dryer vent issue occurs while the property is occupied.. The best way to prevent fires in older houses is to replace the electrical wiring, HVAC, windows and insulation so that tenants are not running space heaters and place the dryer in a location where the vent is down rather than a basement were it is going up and more likely to block up.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:39 p.m.

The hair dryer issue is real. Especially with older wiring. Let me explain. With older homes that may be rated at 1 5 amp circuit with an outlet in a bathroom, it is not dedicated to just this one outlet. So some of its capacity already is being used. Add a 1875 watt hair dryer to the load and the circuit is over loaded. Sure the circuit breaker shut off, bur this is bad for them and repeated usage in this manner can cause them to fail. Older hair dryers from the 1970s or 1980s were less wattage, so they were not as much of a problem, and the homes were younger. In my parent's home, bult in the 1930s, we replaced the circuits in the bathrooms, as well as a few others with new 20 amp circuits to solve this problem.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 3:08 a.m.

Happy they got the dogs out.

An Arborigine

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:26 a.m.

A spokesdog gave two paws up to the AAFD for rescuing their humans and brother dogs.

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:41 p.m.

Woff, Woff

Ryan J. Stanton

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:03 a.m.

I'm sitting next to one of those dogs right now actually. He is beyond thankful to the AAFD, as am I. They did an amazing job tonight.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:35 a.m.

^^^^^Love this!


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:33 a.m.

I wonder how owners of "historic" 19th Century homes in the Historic District mitigate the fire hazard associated with 19th Century construction techniques? All bedrooms on the first floor? Multiple smoke detectors? Bi-Monthly replacement of smoke detector batteries? Fire extinguishers at the ready? Replace wood burning fireplace with a gas log? Prohibit the burning of candles? Completely up-date to 2010 BOCA standards all the electrical and heating/cooling? Perhaps someone with more knowledge than I have, will make a post . . .

Silly Sally

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Oh, don't be so silly! Batteries in smoke detectors last much longer than a month or two. Many smoke and CO2 detectors have multiple batteries, too, enabling them to last even longer. Prohibit the burning of candles? I would, as a landlord, But this is hard to enforce. Even more important is prohibiting the storage of cumbustables near a gas water heater or furnace. I'm amazed at the number of UM students, (book smart) who have done this.

Linda Diane Feldt

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:51 a.m.

I know of one Ann Arbor landlord who owns a few old homes divided into multiple apartments who put in fire suppression systems (sprinklers) in all of his units. That was a significant investment. I suspect he is unusual though. But that would be the best option if you wanted your tenants to be really safe, and your property better protected.

Ben Connor Barrie

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:32 a.m.

Good to know everyone got out. When I was there at about 6:30 it looked like the firefighters were getting ready to do a walkthrough to check things out. Here are some pictures I took:

Linda Peck

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:47 p.m.

To Ann English, I appreciated your comments. I have no idea why someone would give a down vote on your comments. I hope you laugh it off, which is what I do when this happens.

Kyle Mattson

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 2:19 a.m.

Thank for sharing the photos Ben.

Ann English

Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 1:48 a.m.

Your photos make it easy to notice the snow; I had to take a second look at the photo taken for the article, to notice the snow in it. Still, I'm amazed that there's no snow on the streets, despite 3" of snow falling today. I can understand, of course, why the roof of the house has no snow: the fire inside melted the snow away. Still, William and Division look almost dry; it must be the drains near curbs taking all the snowmelt off the streets.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:27 a.m.

I'm glad the people and the dogs got out. Compliments to the Ann Arbor firefighters for doing such a swift and thorough job.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:14 a.m.

I find all the fires lately suspicious or cause of neglect.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 4:13 p.m.

ps ..... city developeders


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 5:50 a.m.

But apparently not anti total speculation.


Sat, Jan 26, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

any plans on rebuilt what look to be a historic house?

Dog Guy

Fri, Jan 25, 2013 : 11:56 p.m.

From its age and the stacked window and door openings, I guess balloon framing and a hard fire to put out. If you have such a home, dense blown-in cellulose can slow flame propagation in walls and give a few extra moments to get out.