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Posted on Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Fire official: Apartment resident's attempt to extinguish kitchen fire spread flames

By Kyle Feldscher

A resident's attempt to extinguish a cooking fire Monday accidentally spread the flames, resulting in a blaze that heavily damaged several apartments and displaced 11 families, a fire officials said.

Captain Brad Johnson said the resident at the Schooner Cove apartments in Ypsilanti Township returned to the kitchen Monday afternoon and saw a grease fire had started in a dish cooking on the stove.


Officials continue to assist the residents of the building at the Schooner Cove apartments damaged in a major fire Monday.

Joe Tobianski |

Johnson said the resident sprayed the grease fire with a fire extinguisher, but it only spread the blaze, causing the apartment to go up in flames. The fire quickly spread to the second and third floors of the building, causing major damage that displaced 11 families.

Officials from McKinley Properties and the American Red Cross continue to work with the people displaced by the fire.

Kelly Gorski, associate director of operations for McKinley Properties, said Tuesday the company is working with the affected residents to see what they want to do about their future housing. McKinley is willing to put the residents up in another company apartment in the area; however, all the other apartments in the area are filled at the moment, she said.

The fire broke out just before 1 p.m. Monday at the apartment complex, off Huron River Drive near Tuttle Hill Road. The fire was contained to one building but burned through much of the second and third floors. No one was injured in the blaze and all the pets in the building survived, including two cats rescued by an Ann Arbor firefighter.

Schooner Cove fire

Complete coverage of the fire at the Ypsilanti Township apartment complex

Ypsilanti Township Fire Chief Eric Copeland said at the scene of the fire Monday the blaze started in a second or third floor apartment. Investigators were set to do more work Tuesday morning before being called to a house fire on Ohio Avenue, where two people escaped a burning home.

American Red Cross spokeswoman Allison Koenigbauer said 11 families ended up getting immediate supplies of food and clothing after the fire destroyed much of building 5086 Monday afternoon. Seven families were put up in hotels overnight, and Koenigbauer said officials from the Red Cross are meeting with them Tuesday to see what else they need.

“I’m not sure if we’re providing another night for those folks as of yet,” she said. “We’re following up with the others in the next couple of days to assess the situation and see how they’re doing. If they need more assistance, we can refer them to other agencies.”

Initial reports from the Red Cross stated the fire displaced 12 families. That number was amended in a statement Tuesday morning.

Koenigbauer said the Red Cross provided clothing, coats, hats and other immediate clothing needs to the families who were affected by the fire. In addition, those affected were given the means to purchase a few days' worth of food.

Gorski said some of the residents displaced by the fire may choose to look elsewhere for new housing, but there are a few who are going to stay with family and friends until they can find a new apartment in the Schooner Cove complex.

“Some people are willing to stay with friends and family until they can move back in,” she said.

Gorski urged anyone interested in donating items to those affected by the blaze to drop off canned food or clothing at the Schooner Cove apartments leasing office, 5050 Schooner Cove Blvd. McKinley is also in the process of setting up a bank account to accept monetary donations that would be distributed evenly among the affected residents, she said.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “Everyone here on the property got donations of canned food and clothing, and the community has been great. Residents are thankful no one’s hurt, all the pets were recovered and they’re helping their fellow residents.

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


Richard Carter

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:56 p.m.

Hmmm... for me, had a grease fire spread beyond the "put the lid on it and smother it out" point, I too would probably not have thought much beyond "pull pin, point hose at fire, pull trigger" and perhaps not done it "right." Might be useful for some organization to make a PSA or two on just that. Of course, now that I've seen there might be more to it, I'm gonna look it up, but the fact that I, along with several other commenters, mentioned essentially that they wouldn't have known more details bodes for more ways to get the info that we never thought we needed out in front of the public.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

It is amazing to read the thought process of some of the posters to this article and to many of the articles posted on Yes the cause of the fire was an accident. Was the accident preventable? Yes apparently it was, not because the fire department dosent conduct regular training on how to use a fire extinguisher(or the right one) it wasnt McKinley's fault becuase they built substandard units and it wasnt the townships fault because they didnt enforce the current code. Maybe McKinley and other landlords should make potential renters take a safety IQ test before renting. Maybe they need to provide every potential fire extinguisher for every potential fire hazzard. Perhaps they should put hoods over the cooking area to immediately extinguish a fire so as to eliminate any human interaction. With as many units as McKinley has perhaps it should have its own fire department at each property site. But the best solution would be governemnt housing that way we could all be assured of low rents and all of the safety features someone elses money can buy.

E Claire

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 6:19 p.m.

wish I could thumb your post up more than once


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 3:34 p.m.

The best thing to do in this type of situation is to first take precautions. Before cooking anything on the stove top that produces grease or that is cooked in oil, have a cover that will cover the pan fully along with a heat resistant mitten and a wet rag nearby. Put it in a place where it can be reached quickly without cornering you. If a fire starts do not pick up the pan. Slide the cover over the flames close to the pan and cover it with the mitten on. This will starve the fire of oxygen. Don't panic! If there is any fire left outside the pan from splatter, without moving the pan wipe it with a wet rag. Do not spray anything on the fire. It will blow flaming grease all over everything just making the situation worse and probably out of control. Turn the heat off, open the windows, and wait it out. Your home may smell of burnt food for a few days but at least you will have a home !


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 5:58 a.m.

We moved from that very building last year. They provide fire extinguishers for each apartment so I hope the apartment complex is providing the correct ones. We are very thankful we made the decision to move when we did. There were plenty of reasons why their buildings were not suitable and safe to be living in. But McKinley knows how to work the laws and do the absolute minimum necessary to make their apartments seem appealing and still be able to rake in the absolute most profit without really doing anything meaningful to benefit their tenants. They should have had firewalls, even if they weren't required of them. They should have "firestops" hanging under all the stove hoods and they should be providing the correct fire extinguishers. True, this incident may not have been prevented even with all of these things, but the reality is that McKinley doesn't care about their residents because these are not the only issues with their apartments. My heart goes out to the unfortunate residents that were still living in the building and I hope this is an eye opener for McKinley. These families should all consult lawyers to see if there's any way that McKinley can be held accountable for not taking the initiative to put firewalls in their buildings.

Paprika Z

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

My husband and I also lived in Schooner Cove Apartments years ago. There was a hole in the wall between our apartment and the next one over where the plumbing drain pipe went through it. This hole was not filled with firestopping material as the building code requires, and we could often smell the neighbors' cigarette smoke in our bathroom. When you live in an apartment building, you are at risk from whatever your neighbors do. I hope that McKinley makes sure that the smoke detectors are operating correctly on a regular basis.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 3:42 p.m.

@Mady we had the same issue. We had to threaten to withhold a few times to get things taken care of. The maintenance workers did all they could but told us that there were a lot of things they weren't allowed to do because of management. Twice we had issues with our apartment where they had to hire contractors to come in and fix the problem and they all, without being asked, expressed their concerns about these buildings and told me that they were being called out a lot for similar issues in that same complex because McKinley had not properly taken care of the buildings.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:53 p.m.

Obvious, I totally agree. I used to rent from McKinley properties. Getting these slumlords to do basic repairs was a complete hassle, and more often than not I'd have to threaten to withhold rent in order to get them to move(see: leaking plumbing directly over the one toilet in the apt.!). needless to say, I will never rent from McKinley again.

not a billy

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 4:47 a.m.

For the G-Man - Schooner Cove was built in phases in the 70s. Regardless of the fire separations in the attics, when a fire starts on the lower floors it blows out the windows, extends up the outside of the building via the vinyl siding and penetrates the soffits (more vinyl material) which are designed to allow air flow into attic space, and travels into said attic space. Vinyl siding and windows are the primary culprits for fire spread (aside from the resident's fire extinguishing tactics), not the building officials in the township. Grind your ax elsewhere.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:36 p.m.

No Ax, but your fire spread description does not speak to the question if the fire separations were required and installed......


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 4:07 a.m.

I'd like to respectfully point out what I believe is a typo in the headline. Should it not read either "apartment's resident(s)" or "apartment residents?"


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 4:52 a.m.

Disregard what i said, it's been a long day!


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

Yah no something? That fire sounds vaguely familiar to the one that started a few years back on Ann Arbor Saline Road. Those complexes? Kitchen fire, spreads to the attic and destroys the rest of the connected units. Gee, I wonder, if Mckinley isn't involved in all this.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:12 a.m.

Ban Kitchens.... Think of the children


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 3:21 p.m.

Yes, homeland, that was the number I heard on the radio a few months back. Nearly drove into a ditch hearing that one. Glad mine got to cooking her own food. Whew. Now on to sweet breads.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

40% wow!


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:39 a.m.

They can become the 40% minority who do not know how to cook.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 11:39 p.m.

Hope everybody had renter's insurance. You never know...that's what insurance is for.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:57 p.m.

About 30 years ago, I looked out my window to see my neighbor's garage full of flames, and two kids running down the drive. It seems that they were making a movie which required an inferno, and they got more than they bargained for. I grabbed my hose and vaulted the fence, but didn't use it once I saw the puddle of flaming gasoline, and the gas can with flames pouring out of its spout. I grabbed a nearby sheet of plywood, and smothered the puddle with that, the flames whooshing out to take all of the hair off of my bare legs as the plywood dropped. Then I punted the flame-spewing gas can out of the garage and wondered what next. Just then, a firefighter walked up the drive, asked me for my garden hose, and with a few judicious squirts, put out the flaming gas can. Totally against "the book," sure. But if you know what you're doing....


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:40 a.m.

Now that sounds like a movie I'd like to see. Wow, sounds epic.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:49 p.m.

@ cinnabar: It works fine if you know what you're doing, and are aware of how grease and water behave.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:41 a.m.

Always keep a fire extinguisher at hand that can do both. For grease fires? A lid works wonders.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:25 p.m.

Grease fires... SMOTHER.... SMOTHER.... SMOTHER !!!!


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:42 a.m.

I remember mama, with a pan on fire running out the kitchen with the pan on fire and out the door she went. Flipped the pan on the ground and we told her again Mama, again!


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:22 p.m.

Amanda, I would also like some additional fire safety information. For 20 years I have had the same fire extinguisher beneath my kitchen sink. I don't know if it still works or even how to make it work. I envision the AAFD having a workshop, perhaps joined by a company like Spears Fire & Safety. Letting people actually use an extinguisher and maybe having up-to-date ones available for purchase.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:02 p.m.

This seems incredible that the fire spread so quickly and completely from a small grease fire within a fire coded "modern" development. Unless the blaze was already out of control why couldn't one fire extinguisher work even if used improperly? Was that a McKinley provided extinguisher? What size and type was it? Perhaps Chief Copeland could also comment on how all apartment dwellers might better protect themselves and pets from similar neighborhood events.

Amanda Erickson

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:51 p.m.

As much cooking as I do, I will have to admit that I would have freaked out and done the exact same thing (using the fire extinguisher)! I would love to see a Fire Safety Basics article for us adults that just do not remember everything from Fire Safety as kids. Obviously, common sense is a big one. But what items should we have in our house to protect our families in an emergency? How often should fire extinguishers be checked/maintained? I am pretty sure the one under my kitchen sink has never been checked by my landlord and looks like it is at least 20 years old.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:06 p.m.

OK, I think that an update does need to be done on this article and it should be done with Captain Brad Johnson. As others have said we need to have more information from him regarding what the resident did wrong, the type of extinguisher that was used, etc. His statement does need clarification so we can all be educated on this.

Kyle Feldscher

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:24 p.m.

Nicholas and justcurious - In this case, dish was jargon for pan. Sorry for the confusion.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:09 p.m.

Dish may have been jargon for pan. Like, I am making a dish tonight. Let's hope.

Kyle Mattson

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:01 p.m.

Hi JC- At this point I'm not sure if any information regarding this specific situation would be that much more educational to us. What this does serve as is a great reminder to us all to make sure that everyone in our homes understand the proper way to extinguish a fire. A quick search on YouTube provides numerous instructional videos on doing so:


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:07 p.m.

By the way, what was a dish doing on the stove with something cooking it it? A pan yes, but a dish?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:59 p.m.

*goes to check my fire extinguishers to see if they are rated for grease fires...*

Kyle Mattson

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10:04 p.m.

Good idea Tesla. For reference here is a good guide of the various extinguisher types put together by FEMA:


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 10 p.m.

Make sure your insurance coverage is what you need too.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:52 p.m.

The way to prevent the fire is to not leave items cooking on an unattended stove, as the article states this person did: Captain Brad Johnson said the resident at the Schooner Cove apartments in Ypsilanti Township returned to the kitchen Monday afternoon and saw a grease fire had started in a dish cooking on the stove.

Kyle Mattson

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:55 p.m.

I was lucky once in a similar situation A2C...I was toasting coconut in the oven and it ignited when I went to grab my cell phone by the time I got back a couple minutes later my entire oven was filled w/ flames. Thankfully I had a kitchen extinguisher right there to put it out.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

There are many educational videos of the proper use of fire extinguishers in a grease fire. One of the main points is that one stands quite a way back from the fire and allow the contents of an "approved" fire extinguisher to fall on the fire rather than hitting it with force from a closer range. Glad no one was injured and feel for those that are displaced.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:24 p.m.

I know one of the families that are displaced. What a shame...because they just got all of their things after a big move from New Jersey. Now? Gone. So sad...but glad no one was hurt!

music to my ear

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 12:40 p.m.

was the family in hurricane sandy.?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:58 p.m.

Hopefully they had insurance and can buy new stuff, I know that doesn't help with pictures and family stuff. I just hope they were looking out for themselves.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

Let's not let the Township off the hook! I'm pretty sure the 1981 BOCA code required 1 hour fire separations in the attics above, not sure about a version or two earlier of the Code, and I do not know when the apartments were built, however, let's keep the the Township on the spot to PROVE that the attic fire separations were not required at the time of construction!


Thu, Jan 10, 2013 : 1:57 p.m.

G-man You don't have time to back up YOUR statements , but expect the township to respond to every unfounded (by your own admission) accusation. So questioning your logic suggest there is something to your innuendo. I think not.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 8:40 p.m.

No finger pointing here Rob, just asking the questions.... Don't have time to search for dates and who knows if that is correct info anyway. Just suggesting the Township prove a point, nothing more. By the sounds of harsh response, perhaps there is something to it???


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 11:23 p.m.


Rob MI

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:19 p.m.

Do some research. Publicly-accessible, online records show Schooner Cove was built in 3 phases from 1973 to 1975. Take your fingerpointing elsewhere.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:01 p.m.

Where did you get information that the fire spread in the attic space?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:15 p.m.

Maybe the fire captain could have added, and is should have been printed, how to best prevent this type of fire, so that people can learn from it. Hopefully something like this will never happen again, and luckily no one was hurt, or even died from this fire. I'm sure most people would have reacted in the same way. But, based on the type of fire, maybe the exitnguisher was not suitable for the fire. If it was a grease fire, putting a lid on the pot, or baking soda, is the best way. PUTING IT OUT IN THE SINK IS THE WORST WAY AS THE WATER WILL ALSO CAUSE WHAT HAPPENED. Was the extinguisher an ABC type, suitable for all fires. Did the person spray it right on top of the fire, or stand back and let the foam do it's work instead of allowing the compression spray the grease (if that was the type) all over. Please use this as an oppotunity to educate and inform. Thanks!

Thinking over here

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 5:29 p.m.

Me, four! Thanks Pat.


Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 3:33 p.m.

Ideally, of course, we should think ahead about fires, but in real life we may not - and may not have time to access the Web if/when this happens! All the comments here on extinguishers and baking soda make good sense - and at least once I had good results with ordinary salt on a small pan fire.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Why should the captain repeat what is commonly available on the internet, with detailed videos and illustrations?


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:24 p.m.

Keep baking soda handy, good for extinguishing grease fires! i dont use baking soda, but i have some in my kitchen just in case.

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

Also, one thing is clear: Do NOT have a water-based extinguisher. It will not work on grease fires, it will make things worse.

Kyle Feldscher

Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 9:11 p.m.

My research shows there are different types of fire extinguishers that work on different types of fires. I'm not entirely positive what type of extinguisher this resident had, but most people have ABC extinguishers, which work on paper, wood, oil, grease, plastic, electrical equipment and other items commonly found in homes. Again, I'm not positive, but this resident could have had a different type that might have just splashed the grease about the room and caused the fire to spread to other parts of the kitchen. Again, this is speculation on my part. But, I would recommend checking your extinguishers to see if they are ABC extinguishers. Anything else might not work on the different types of fires presented in different situations. Hope this helps.


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

Me three


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:21 p.m.

exactly what I was thinking!


Tue, Jan 8, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

I find it hard to believe that McKinley has no vacancies considering the number of properties they are associated with.

Nicholas Urfe

Wed, Jan 9, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

"Sir, I mean to say that we have no vacancies for YOU. I was trying to be delicate."