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Posted on Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 11:50 a.m.

Pauline apartment fire: 'The whole building was fully involved'

By Paula Gardner

Previous story: Fire breaks out at vacant apartments on Pauline

Up to 40 firefighters responded to the fire that destroyed a vacant apartment building in Ann Arbor on Saturday morning.

Ann Arbor Fire Chief Chuck Hubbard said the fire was raging through the building - one of three at 1500 Pauline on the city's west side - when firefighters arrived after 6 a.m.

"The whole building was fully involved," Hubbard said.

Crews from the Ann Arbor Fire Department launched what Hubbard called a defensive attack on the flames to prevent it from spreading further as commanders called in additional resources from neighboring communities.

At the height of the incident, up to 40 firefighters, including crews from Pittsfield Township, Ypsilanti Township and Ypsilanti, converged on the property.

The complex has been vacant as it awaits demolition, with the last tenants moving out Sept. 20. Owner Avalon Housing planned to raze the structures and build a new complex with 32 affordable housing units and a community center.

The building that was destroyed was at the northern edge of the property. A building closer to Pauline remains standing, appearing intact from the street but suffering siding damage from the extreme heat on the side closest to the blaze.

The third building on the property, located to the east adjacent to Fritz Park, also suffered some damage. All three - and the foundation of a previously demolished fourth building - had been fenced off after the last residents moved out.

Crews were still on the scene at 11 a.m. Saturday, as heavy equipment operators cleared debris and a contingent of firefighters dealt with controlling the "hot spots."

The building was fully involved for about two hours, Hubbard said.

"We're not sure of the cause," Hubbard added. The city's fire marshal also was on-site at 11 a.m., investigating the origins of the fire.

Graffiti covers the front building closest to Pauline, including some epithets directed toward police.

Hubbard said there's no indication so far that it could be connected to the fire: "We're not sure it has anything to do with this."

No one was injured in the blaze. Hubbard also said his crews did not have evidence early Saturday that anyone may have been living on the property.

Firefighters previously had trained in the vacant buildings.

Washtenaw Affordable Housing Corp. applied for a demolition permit in February, according to the city's online records. Avalon officials said the permit was finalized on Tuesday.



Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:41 p.m.

I want to thank for covering the story and the Ann Arbor Fire Dept. for their good work. There was quite the breeze that morning and the smoke and sparks were billowing down the street. The roar of the fire was very loud and the flames were close to houses on Northwood. It was a serious situation handled well. I went to check the news to find out what was happening and they gave us the initial information.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:19 a.m.

1. For everyone's information all building have now been knocked down so there is limited risk of another fire. 2. Does anyone know why Avalon decided to tear-down and build new rather than continuing with the old structure?

Erich Jensen

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Irony? Isn't this the complex the firemen practiced at last month?


Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

Wowwww! Arbordale is gone that kind of funny and kind surreal. I have no words lol!

Joel A. Levitt

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

We, who live in the Arbordale neighborhood, are happy that our neighbors include the friendly residents of the Avalon complex. Our neighborhood enjoys a no-crime and each-helping-the-other-as-needed atmosphere.

Bill Marr

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:18 a.m.

Now is the time for you and your neighbors around there to write, call, and email Avalon Housing to do something like hire security for the area there.


Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 12:28 p.m.

Great job at taking care of the terrible fire -- even if the buildings were vacant, we all know that fire can spread and quickly. Again, great job to all assisted in taking care of the concern. And, the city definitely needs to bring up to staff the AAFD and provide adequate equipment for them to use. Fire trucks definitely are a piece of art.

Elaine F. Owsley

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

Could we have more than the same cutline for the photos? By the second one, we got the point.

Bill Marr

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 3:17 a.m.

I strongly urge the residents that live near & around 1500 Pauline to write a letter & send it to Avalon Housing to have them hire security to make sure this doesn't happen again until the new buildings are put up in their place.

Bill Marr

Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 2:17 a.m.

Who is to say @AAJoker that if this happens again, it wouldn't be worse? & a2citizen putting pressure on Avalon Housing to do something more than just putting up a fence would protect the people & their homes around the area there.


Mon, Oct 15, 2012 : 1:17 a.m.

There is no need to as all of the building have now been knocked down.


Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 4:37 a.m.

Yeah, sure, that'll help.

Linda Peck

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 2:53 a.m.

This is some serious business and serious questions are written here. I hope "someone" downtown is paying attention to them. Like, what if that building had people in it? And as brimble says, what if there was a second fire happening at the same time. It does seem that our population is growing in the larger Ann Arbor and Washtenaw County area, and that should signal the need to step up the fire protection services, not cut back on them.

Bill Marr

Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 3:18 a.m.

@Linda Peck, read my comment to that.


Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 2:09 a.m.

It took 40 firefighters to put out that fire and there were no residents to rescue. What would happen if a fire broke out in a heavily occupied apartment building and then there was another fire, too? How many firefighters are active on any one shift in Ann Arbor? There's also the equipment situation. Recently, the Chelsea Fire Department took delivery of a state of the art fire truck that cost less than that "piece of art" outdoors in front of (or is it in back of or on the side of) City Hall. The notion that other communities back us up ignores that backing up has more than one direction. Part of the scaled down Ann Arbor capacity can be temporarily out of Ann Arbor because we back up the fire departments that back us up.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 8:58 p.m.

40 firefighters, use of the ladder truck, and assistance from other departments speaks to the need to ensure that in the event of a significant call, public safety is not compromised. Linda Peck wonders about response time to this incident; I wonder what response time to a second simultaneously occurring fire would have been.


Sun, Oct 14, 2012 : 3:14 p.m.

At least 3 ladder trucks. Tower 1, Ladder 5, and a tower truck from Pittsfield Twp. This may be part of the "Station consolidation" effort.

Linda Peck

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 8:21 p.m.

I would be curious as to the response time for this fire.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 8:03 p.m.

I just updated this story based on info from Wendy Carty-Saxon of Avalon Housing. Information that changed included clarifying when the last residents vacated the property and that the city had finalized the demo permit last week.

kindred spirit

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 7:46 p.m.

Did someone's turf get slated to be torn down, and so it was burned down? Please follow up on this story.

Paula Gardner

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 6:39 p.m.

I asked if there was evidence of 'squatters' who'd been living there, and it sounds like firefighters on the scene today didn't find any - at least early on.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

Or that evidence could have just burned up too being that it was a full building fire.

Jack Campbell

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

Still looks better than an affordable housing project, and attracts less crime.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

So um....I bet the fact that they were literally just practicing on this building helped out with today's firefighting.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

Arson? Maybe. I think it was maybe started by homeless folks who need a fire to cook or stay warm. They need to inspect the fence to see if there are any signs that someone could wiggle in. Whoever is going to build there just saved on demo costs.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

"They need to inspect the fence to see if there are any signs that someone could wiggle in. " You could see the fence not even connected at the corner by driving by it. Every time I'd passed it recently I could see people hanging out inside in the courtyard.

An Arborigine

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 5:05 p.m.

How convenient and what a savings over traditional demolition.

joe smith

Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:58 p.m.

A Good Cleansing is Just what that place needed-Shame it didnt take out the rest of that Festering Mess of an apartment complex.


Sat, Oct 13, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Arson? Glad no one was hurt.