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 Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

Owner loses 'basically everything' when home struck by lightning last year burns

By Kyle Feldscher


The home on Hunting Valley Drive is seen on Sunday.

Paula Gardner |

John Morris and his wife, Michelle, spent all of Friday moving their possessions into their home on Hunting Valley Drive, excited at the prospect of returning to the home they left after it was struck by lightning in July.


Firefighters worked for an hour to control this fire at 3125 Hunting Valley Drive on Friday. The home was a total loss, firefighters said.

Photo courtesy of Nicholas Ferrario

They left the home at about 9 p.m. A little more than two hours later, that happy future had gone up in flames.

Morris, an orthopedic surgeon at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, and Michelle Morris were notified at about midnight that their home at 3125 Hunting Valley Drive was engulfed in flames. It was an unfair twist of fate for the couple, who left the home after a July lightning strike damaged the exterior of the home.

“Something dramatic happened, going from being fine to totally engulfed in flames,” he said. “I’m just dumbfounded, and we just lost basically everything. We have to start all over again.”

Ann Arbor firefighters were dispatched to the home at about 11:11 p.m. Friday, initially being told they were going to a bonfire, according to a statement released Monday. While on their way to the home, the call was changed to a structure fire, and firefighters learned the two-story home was engulfed in flames.

The cause of the fire still is under investigation and foul play hasn’t been totally ruled out, John Morris said. When speaking to Monday afternoon, he said he asked investigators if they had ever seen a home go up so quickly without some sort of accelerant. They said it’s possible, according to Morris.

He and his wife have been living in a rental house since they were originally forced to leave the home. When the Hunting Valley Drive home was struck by lightning in July, a small fire damaged part of the roof and the side of the house but all of the family’s possessions were spared, he said.

The home was struck July 28 on the east side, with the charge causing the gas meter to explode, Morris said. Although he woke up after the loud noise, he went back to bed because all the power in the home was evidently still on. A few minutes later, he was woken up by a neighbor pounding on the door, alerting him that the home’s roof was burning.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze but had to return a few hours later when the fire rekindled, Morris said.

Most of the family's possessions were in storage or at the rental home during the ensuing months, but the time had finally come to return them to the home on Hunting Valley Drive. Morris said all was well when he left at about 9 p.m.; all was well when he talked to a neighbor on the phone at about 10 p.m.; all was well when a neighbor’s aide went by the home at about 10:45 p.m.

Investigators still are trying to figure out what happened after that, he said.

“It’s a grieving process,” Morris said, his voice cracking with emotion.

It took about an hour for Ann Arbor firefighters, with help from the Pittsfield Township Fire Department, to get the fire under control. Crews were on scene for hours afterward, working to prevent the fire from rekindling and burning what remained of the home.

Firefighters initially estimated the loss at $500,000 to the home and $150,000 for the contents of the house. The house was a total loss, according to fire department officials.

Morris said he's thinking about rebuilding the home on the same spot, but is more concerned about where he and his wife will live after their rental home is sold.

"We're just going to have to stay where we're at for now," he said.

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


Linda Peck

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:32 p.m.

I am very sorry to hear this. I wish Dr. Morris and his family all the best and may more blessings pour in now at this time for them.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:25 p.m.

I'm not really sure I would want to build on the same property...doesn't sound too lucky! Hopefully the family can rebuild and never have to deal with anything remotely like this again. So tragic!

Paprika Z

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

My thoughts are with the Morris family. What a tragedy. I sincerely hope they can find housing and can rebuild their home quickly. I am sure it will be difficult to replace their possessions, but as others have said, it's good that no one was injured in either fire.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:59 p.m.

Whats next though. You cant print anyones name in the paper because you may be able to google their address or look it up in the phone book? Come off it.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:06 p.m.

I agree that addresses should not be printed. An insecure home is at risk from looters and scrappers.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

Without the specific address, how difficult would it be for the looters and scrappers to find a burned out house by driving down the street or looking up the address in the phone book?


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

My heart goes out to this family. It must be devastating to have to start all over again when you were just about to settle back in. I hope the third time is a charm for you.

Red Floyd

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:04 p.m.

Hey leezee, in case you're not yet already aware, YES, some people DO scan each and every article on desperately looking for complain about. There is some collective cloud of journalistic bitterness that apparently hangs over this community, and some brave souls have taken up their swords to stand vigilantly on guard, protecting the rest of us from typos, trivial omissions, or any subjective over-reach in reporting. Fortunately for us, they are immune to forces such as empathy, which would cause lesser mortals, like you and I, to write something compassionate. It's like eating the most delicious meal you've ever tasted, and the guy across the table can't stop focusing on the fact that the dinner fork was set on the wrong side of the plate.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:15 p.m.

I suppose a corollary to that might be that some people DO scan each and every comment on desperately looking to complain about other commentators.

Craig Lounsbury

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

reading the general concerns by some about posting an address I find thought provoking. I did a little surfing this morning to some random online papers in other areas. What I see anecdotally is that posting addresses seems pretty common. So in that regard is not out of the norm In America we revere the press as the "4th estate", they are the people who "reign in" political leaders. So is it a "slippery slope" to somewhere bad if the 4th estate overly limits (censors) what it thinks we need to know? I don't know what I think on that.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:29 p.m.

What do some of you readers do? Do you actually scan each article to find something to complain about? Did you ever stop to think that the Dr., since he was interviewed, gave permission for the address to be shown? Or perhaps the fact that the local fire dept. responded means it is public record anyway. And what's the difference? Unlike the robbery example someone wrote about, no one plans to go to the house to steal anything. Here's what you should be thinking - My thoughts are with the family at this difficult time.

Red Floyd

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:40 p.m.

Well said, leezee!

Steve Pepple

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

Several inappropriate comments posted overnight have been removed.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:38 a.m.

Note To Editor: Addresses should never be posted, and it doesn't matter what the event or crime is. When someone gets robed it is no one's business what the numbers of the house is, the area is just fine. Say, for example, Robbery on the 300 block of N.Main, instead of 321 apartment 2. Not only is it a infringement on their lives, but it tells other robber's that it may be a good target, because they know there will be brand new stuff to steal there. Privacy is getting rare these days, and we don't need it posted all over the net.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:49 a.m.

Unless it is a public event of course.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 9:43 a.m.

So sorry for the owners. Sure would be wonderful if a local property management groups stepped up and found some housing for this family! I always hope that Ann Arbor remains a caring, compassionate community!


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:27 a.m.

"It is irresponsible reporting of to publish the owner's address." Yea, he hasn't been accused of any crime!

Wolf's Bane

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

Why, nothing is left.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

It is irresponsible reporting of to publish the owner's address.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 1:21 a.m.



Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:45 a.m.

Fortunate indeed is it that Dr. Morris and his wife escaped both of these improbable disasters unscathed. Obviously, they are due our sympathy. I do have one honest question: how on Earth did the call to AAFD come in as a "bonfire" call? Was that too just a chance part of the unbelievable disaster for this couple?

Terry Star21

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:38 a.m.

Having been in that situation once, there are no words to describe that words. This is not suppose to happen, I hope the investigators determine the cause. I would hope the family quickly hires an attorney to represent them and most importantly, hire an outside investigation team to also work at the scene (after the main investigators)........having been there, once before myself.

Tom Smith

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 11:14 p.m.

Jeez, that's simply awful. At least they themselves are safe. Good thoughts and the best of luck to them.


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 11 p.m.

Despite the loss of property and the major inconveniences of having to live elsewhere while supervising the construction of a new home (for all of which I offer my condolences, by the way), I am grateful that no person or animal was injured in this fire. Persevere, sir, persevere!


Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 10:57 p.m.

They should look into Insulated Concrete Form construction. Much stronger and doesn't burn. And a metal roof. Very energy efficient too.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 12:46 a.m.

Id be looking into stainless steel construction at this stage.

Joseph Stratton

Mon, Apr 9, 2012 : 10:24 p.m.

Sometimes the best answer is to start all-over. Shady is correct.