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Posted on Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 7:43 p.m.

Stubborn fire at Sheesh restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor took hours to extinguish

By Cindy Heflin


Ann Arbor firefighters work to put out a fire at 207 North Main St. on Monday. The fire started in the kitchen of Sheesh restaurant.

Melanie Maxwell |

A fire at a Mediterranean restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor snaked along subfloors and up walls in the aging building, requiring several hours and multiple departments to extinguish it, an Ann Arbor firefighter said Monday evening.

“It was an extremely difficult fire,” said fire Capt. Randy Menard.

A total of 51 firefighters from four departments battled the blaze at Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, 207 N. Main St., Menard said. Multiple crews worked at the front and rear of the building, tearing out floors, ceilings and walls to get at the fire hiding within, Menard said.


A firefighter prepares to look in a window above Sheesh restaurant Monday after a fire broke out in the restaurant's kitchen.

Melanie Maxwell |

The fire, which displaced residents of apartments and a condominium unit in the building, started when grease in the grill ignited, Menard said. When Ann Arbor fire units arrived shortly after the fire broke out at 11:23 a.m., the interior of the restaurant was in flames, he said. Firefighters quickly knocked that down, but the battle was far from over because the fire began burning between the ceiling and the second-story floor.

“We didn’t have a visible fire, but it was still burning inside the floor,” he said. “Any time it could have gotten away from us.”

The building still had the original plank floor and a plywood subfloor above that with hardwood on top. Above that was a tile floor, Menard said. Between each of those layers is a small void that allowed the fire to spread out of the immediate reach of firefighters.

By about 2:30 or 3 p.m., firefighters finally felt they had gotten the best of it, but a crew of three or four firefighters still remained on scene about 6 p.m. Monday, making sure the fire did not rekindle.

Cook Kall Ali, who was standing outside the restaurant in a soot-covered shirt Monday evening, said he and another employee were working inside when the fire broke out.

“All I could see was fire and smoke,” he said. He immediately ran out. He said he thought the fire had been caused by an oil leak.

Menard said damage will run to the hundreds of thousands of dollars. He said the Sheesh restaurant will likely have to be gutted and completely redone.

The Edible Arrangements business next door at 205 N. Main St. also had significant damage and will need cleanup and repair before it can reopen, he said. A truck from Coach’s Catastrophe Cleaning in Ypsilanti was parked behind the business Monday evening.

The Mythlogic computer business at 209 N. Main St. suffered minimal effects from smoke and should be able to continue operating, Menard said.

The fire brought out seven trucks from Ann Arbor, the five trucks staffed by on-duty firefighters and two more, including the city’s tower truck, brought online when 15 off-duty firefighters were called back in, Menard said. The tower truck is offline when there are not enough on-duty firefighters to staff it. Firefighters from Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township and Pittsfield Township also assisted.

About 25 residents of apartments and condominiums above the businesses were displaced, firefighters said Monday afternoon. One employee suffered a knee injury leaving the building, firefighters said.



Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 6:03 p.m.

Thank goodness there were no fatalities and only a minor injury as a result of this fire. Thanks to the surrounding communities who came to the rescue of Ann Arbor, a city where public safety comes second to public art. For those critics commenting about yet another opportunity to blame the mayor, I would like to see how you feel if it were your business and your livelihood that was just disrupted as a result of this fire. No community can afford to be as adequately staffed as they may wish to be or would be ideal, however, Ann Arbor is no longer staffed adequately to protect the citizens. The mayor and city council are unlikely to ever admit they were wrong and their political agendas were placed before the public, however, it is time for them to setup up and become responsible public servants.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 3 p.m.

Wasn't there a driver and firefighters that could use the Tower truck? I realize they might be "a truck short" but at least the tower truck would be there instead of sitting at the station? Even if the department was staffed at previous years levels wouldn't they still have the need for mutual aid? Looking at this as an outsider, it makes sense to have help in case you need it v.s. it being too late to protect the neighboring buildings. Better to be safe than sorry I'd say.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

In other news, a child on the city's east side tripped and skinned his knee. Comments on the web site immediately found a way to blame the mayor and city council for the event. [Ed note: this is an example of the rhetorical device, sarcasm, not an actual news story. Please adjust your reaction accordingly.]

Bertha Venation

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 3:17 p.m.

Oh my goodness! Not the East Side... the privileged, the few. I need more details! This could be serious. I'll bet he tripped on the city-owned sidewalk, and there will be one giant law suit! The mayor should have gotten out there and personally patched that sidewalk.

Silly Sally

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:10 p.m.

Some are saying that those capable of driving and operating the ladder truck and unable to drive or operate anything smaller. Since they most likely drive their personal car to the station, I'm sure that these firefighters can operate something a bit smaller than the ladder truck. The firefighters can decide on which truck to take dependent upon the need (or fire). The city cannot afford to have a crew sitting around for months, never using the ladder truck, just for a few high rises. Just as workers in successful businesses are cross trained, so should firefighters. Do these high rise owners pay an extra tax to support this special need? No. The city needs to save, and the crews that operate this ladder truck can respond to other fires most of the time and drive the ladder truck when necessary.

Mr Blue

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1:10 p.m.

Are you planning to be the next Fire Chief? Because you have an amazing grip on how everything is supposed to work.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 2:31 a.m.

I eat there all the time, I hope they go back in business soon. By the way, they are one of the best mediterranean restaurants in town

Adam Jaskiewicz

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 3:05 a.m.

Agreed. I ate there for the first time a couple weeks ago, and it's some of the best hommus and shawarma I've had since I moved back to Ann Arbor from Dearborn. It's no Cedarland, but neither is anything else in town. I'm glad everyone made it out, and I can't wait for them to re-open.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 2:13 a.m.

I hope the affected businesses have good fire insurance coverage. It will likely take months until the insurance investigations ae completed, damages and repair costs professionally quantified, and the contractors perform the needed repairs. The employees are likely to lose income in the interim; a sad story all around except for the fact no one was injured.

Joseph Lewis

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1 a.m.

Aren't restaurants supposed to have built in fire extinguishers about the grill?

Joe Hood

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

The fire extinguishers I've seen spray down from the hood. Further up in the hood are grease traps, out of reach of the extinguishers, which if not cleaned properly can contain a lot of grease.

Joseph Lewis

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1:49 a.m.


Brian Kuehn

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:04 a.m.

It appears like the mutual aid pacts worked. The fire did not spread to the adjacent buildings, although predictably one neighbor did suffered damage. No one was seriously injured. The fire departments that assisted Ann Arbor put enough fire fighters on the scene to get the job done. In this case it looks like the system worked as planned. Congrats to the AAFD and all other involved departments. Disclosure: I am neither a fire chief nor a fire fighter but I do own an armchair.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 9:45 p.m.

At the risk of John B. catching me, I think it is appropriate to note the following again here: When Pittsfield Township residents voted (smartly) to increase the millage for their safety services, I distinctly remember comments from the residents noting that they hoped they were not just funding a department to help a city north of them (Ann Arbor). Just something to think about.

Cendra Lynn

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:02 a.m.

See <a href=""></a> posted yesterday by the President of the Ann Arbor Firefighters. Had the tower truck been operable at the first call, this fire could have been handled better. Will this wake up the Mayor and his cronies, or do more people have to die? How many? Citizens or firefighters? Without public safety, all else is moot.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

I think it was also stated that the tower could help fight fire effectively in buildings less than five stories because of the ability to safely spray water from above.

Brian Kuehn

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:16 a.m.

I believe the point the union president was trying to make was that for fires in buildings that exceed 6 stories, the tower truck is needed. This fire occurred in a 2 story building. Certainly, not having the equipment to properly fight fires in buildings over 6 stories is a concern. However, it does not necessarily follow that the immediate lack of the tower truck in this instance worsened the situation. Disclosure: I am neither a fire fighter nor a fire chief but I do own an armchair.

monroe c

Mon, Aug 22, 2011 : 11:56 p.m.

&quot;A total of 51 firefighters from four departments battled the blaze at Sheesh Mediterranean Cuisine, 207 N. Main St., Menard said.&quot; Four departments? AAFD could've handled it had we not laid off our own firefighters in exchange for more art in the new and overpriced City Hall.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 9:41 p.m.

When Pittsfield Township residents voted (smartly) to increase the millage for their safety services, I distinctly remember comments from the residents noting that they hoped they were not just funding a department to help a city north of them (Ann Arbor). Just something to think about.

Mr Blue

Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 1:08 p.m.

I'm sure your in the category of people who think government spends too much money. With mutual aid agreements, public safety departments are working together to SAVE taxpayer dollars. We need to get past the notion that every municipality needs they own safety services and look for ways to increase efficiency. Cities, towns, villages have to work together to solve their common problems instead of thinking that they can only serve the community with the name on their trucks.


Tue, Aug 23, 2011 : 12:09 a.m.

mutual aid did the job.. Because AAFD budget crisis did not staff help......No money