Cause of strip mall fire now ‘undetermined’

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published December 17, 2012

WARREN — Investigators still don’t know what caused the fire that gutted a former Farmer Jack store in a strip mall on 10 Mile east of Ryan Dec.6.

The cause of the fire, originally labeled as suspicious, was amended to “undetermined” Dec. 12, after a briefing with federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, according to Warren Fire Commissioner Wilburt “Skip” McAdams.

“The origin of the fire is going to be in the southeast portion, rear portion of the building. The determination on the fire is going to be undetermined at this point,” McAdams said. “We know where it started, the area of origin, but we cannot get the actual pinpoint source, the area that first ignited and what the ignition source was.”

McAdams said the federal investigation had concluded, and that the ATF had turned the scene over to the Warren Fire Department.

Fire investigators were expected to release control of the building to its owner, and any further investigation would be handled by the Warren Police Department.

McAdams said the owner of the building and the tenant of the resale warehouse that burned in the space once occupied by Farmer Jack had cooperated fully with federal and local investigators “every step of the way.”

The fire, reported just after 2 a.m. Dec. 6, gutted 26,000 square feet of the building on the eastern end of the
shopping plaza.

Other tenants in adjacent retail spaces had regained the use of their utility services and were open for business, McAdams said. The Family Dollar store, which shared an eastern wall with the burned property, would need to undergo repair to a dividing wall, as a result of the fire.

McAdams said investigators were still interested in hearing from anyone with information about the fire. Information received immediately after the fire had led investigators to deem the fire suspicious, but McAdams said that assessment had been amended.

“A lot of things we didn’t understand in the beginning, in the initial stages of the fire incident. That required further investigation, but they’ve led nowhere,” McAdams said. “So, at this point, we will continue to investigate, but at this point, the fire will be ruled undetermined.”

As previously reported, Warren fire crews, assisted by an aerial unit from the U.S. Army Detroit Arsenal, arrived at the scene of the fire at 2:05 a.m. Dec. 6 to find smoke billowing from the front and rear of the building. A section of the roof collapsed soon after their arrival.

McAdams said heat from the fire caused sections of glass windows at the front of the building to shatter, which led to an influx of oxygen that fed the blaze.