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Posted on Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 8:30 p.m.

Fire that killed 22-year-old EMU student one of four considered 'suspicious' near U-M campus

By Stefanie Murray


A 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University student died Saturday from injuries suffered in a fire that gutted this house on South State Street in Ann Arbor.

Angela J. Cesere |

A 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University student died of injuries suffered in a suspicious early morning fire Saturday that gutted a rental home in the 900 block of South State Street in Ann Arbor.

That blaze - which injured two other people - was one of several overnight fires considered suspicious. Although officials have not said the fires are arson, the University of Michigan Department of Public Safety issued a warning Saturday, urging students to be careful and report suspicious activity to police.

The EMU student killed in the fire was identified as Renden Lemasters of Dexter, described by his stepmother as a fun-loving young man who enjoyed golf and U-M sports. He was attending EMU in preparation for a career in the computer science field and was a senior in the College of Technology.

“He had a zest for life - he lived life to the absolute fullest in all of his 22 years,” Deanna Lemasters said.

Renden Lemasters was one of three people treated for injuries in the fire. Another man was released from the U-M Hospital on Saturday and a woman was in critical condition Saturday afternoon. An updated condition was not available Saturday evening.

Neal Woolf, a senior at EMU who attended Dexter High School with Renden Lemasters, remembered him as someone who had a great sense of humor and “always had a smile on his face.”

“Renden had that unique quality about him were you knew he'd go out of his way to help any of his friends,” Woolf wrote in an e-mail to “He was a great guy to be around because he was also positive and optimistic. Never a cynic. People simply gravitated towards him.”


Renden Lemasters. Photo courtesy of the Lemasters family.

The 5:30 a.m. blaze at 928 S. State St. started on the porch of the home but quickly spread and engulfed the structure, officials said. When firefighters arrived, one person exited the home on fire, another person's legs were on fire and someone jumped from a second-story window. Firefighters rescued two people off the back porch roof.

Ann Arbor Assistant Fire Chief Greg Hollingsworth said it appears seven people - all in their early 20s - were inside the home when the fire started.

"When a fire starts on a porch, it gets so intense by the time it breaks into the home," Hollingsworth said. "The stairwell acts as a chimney, and there's no way to easily get out."

That fire was one of four to occur overnight near the University of Michigan Central Campus.

The three other fires involved cars and trash cans, including one that consumed three cars in a parking area underneath an apartment building on Church Street, officials said. Those fires all remain under investigation.

Ann Arbor Fire Marshal Kathleen Chamberlain said residents should remove combustible items from porches, such as trash, sofas or lighter fluids for grills, and be careful to safely extinguish cigarettes and grills.

The residents displaced by the fire on South State Street were being moved into another rental home owned by the landlord, officials said.

A team of seven Red Cross volunteers assisted five of the residents, according to a statement from the Washtenaw County chapter of the American Red Cross. Representatives from the U-M Dean of Students' office were at the hospital to provide assistance.

Alex Beeker, an engineering student, lives across the street from the house on State Street.

“I woke up when my roommate across the hall saw it. I heard screaming, his girlfriend was freaking out because she saw somebody run out of the house on fire,” Beeker said. “At that point, we all came down stairs and sat on our front porch and saw the whole thing.”

Anyone who has any information about any of the fires is asked to call the U-M Department of Public Safety at 734-763-1131 or the Ann Arbor Police Department tip line at 734-794-6939 or email News Director Amalie Nash and freelance writer John Garcia contributed to this report. Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Apr 7, 2010 : 8:37 a.m.

Bobby, Kim and Ryan My heart goes out to you. I am praying for you and your family. Krista Lane


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 7:52 p.m.

To comment on the smoke detectors - yes, they were working. The fire started outside and by the time the alarms went off, it was too late. The trauma and horror these young adults went through is something no one should have to witness or see.

Pamela Simmons

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 5:51 p.m.

Bob, Kim and Ryan: Matthew and I send our deepest condolences to you and your family and friends. You are all in our prayers.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 12:58 p.m.

Renden was loved by all who knew him, may he rest in peace. May God hold Kim and Bob in the palm of his hand. I'm so sorry for your tragic loss.

DaLast word

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 9:49 a.m.

Bob, Kim, I'm so very, very sorry for your loss.


Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 7:20 a.m.

I am so sorry to hear this, my condolences to friends and family. I hope this is not an inappropriate question at this time, but I'm curious -- is there any information about whether or not the smoke detectors were functioning?

Evelyn Griffin

Mon, Apr 5, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

I cannot understand how someone can do such a terrible thing and live with their conscience. My heart felt sympathy to the family of Renden. Evie G


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 11:03 p.m.

I am very shocked to hear about this tragedy. Rendon ALWAYS had good things to say about everything. He was the bright spot in your day if you happened to be around him. So sad. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 4:41 p.m.

This is terribly sad. It must be resolved... how this fire started. My sympathy for this fine young man's family. I sadly remember the arson deaths of two children in Hikone several decades ago..... homicides, never resolved.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 8:46 a.m.

We all need to take a more active roll in watching our neighborhoods. Wright down a plate number or a description if you see something questionable. I don't believe we need to call the police every time we something, because most of the time it is nothing. But jotting down some information might be helpful at times. And we will have to decide what rises to the level of calling the police immediately. If anyone saw something please don't brush it off as nothing. You never know what might be the final piece of the puzzle. Hopefully this was a tragic accident and not intentional.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 7:51 a.m.

Where were the trash fires set? A community member might have seen something suspicious.


Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

It's not a prank, it's a homicide case. Very tragic. Has anybody seen something suspicious lately? It's the holiday weekend.

Dominick Lanza

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 7:04 a.m.

What a tradgedy for this young mans family we all hurt for them. I surely hope this was not an intentional fire and if it were those responsible should pay dearly. Rest in peace young man.

J. Sorensen

Sun, Apr 4, 2010 : 12:50 a.m.

I drove by here at 5:00 and all was quiet. When I drove back by at 5:30 the block was completely closed off and a few barefoot kids were in the street with police. I wish I had seen who might have done this. I feel so bad for the Lemasters family. To think someone did this intentionally as a prank is unimaginable!


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 11:21 p.m.

Posted, why not here?


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 11:02 p.m.

Didn't know him, but RIP nonetheless. Tragic indeed... my condolences to friends and family.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 10:21 p.m.

I met Renden only once, when I dropped my daughter at his parents' home to hang out with his sister. Within 5 minutes of listening to him banter with his father and sister, glimpsing his easy grace, and sensing his positive energy, I liked him and knew he was the kind of son any parent would love and be proud of. My heart goes out to his family and friends. Beyond sad.


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 8:35 p.m.

Very sad. Renden was a great young man. RIP


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 8:28 p.m.

R.I.P Man... =( sad...


Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

So very tragic!

dading dont delete me bro

Sat, Apr 3, 2010 : 7:45 p.m.

rip renden.