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Madison Heights

Fire pit ashes burn down garage, spread to house

Recreational fires not allowed in Madison Heights

May 14, 2014

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When a fire broke out in the garage of a home in the 600 block of West Harwood April 27, it destroyed the entire structure and spread to the roof of the house.

MADISON HEIGHTS — Investigators have now determined that ashes from a fire pit caused a residential fire that destroyed a detached garage and spread across the breezeway to the house.

The incident occurred in the 600 block of West Harwood April 27. Firefighters in Madison Heights received the alarm at 12:10 p.m. and arrived at 12:14 p.m. They were assisted by firefighters from Hazel Park, Ferndale and Royal Oak.

“It was just one orange glow engulfed in flames when we arrived, burning the garage from the inside out, and eventually the fire burned through the roof and the roof collapsed into the garage,” said Madison Heights Fire Marshal Shawn Knight.

Complicating matters was where the fire spread. The fire worked its way into a concealed space between the ceiling and attic wall, forcing firefighters to tear down interior walls in an attempt to locate the fire before it intensified.

“We had a lot of smoke and fire coming from the rear of the house, on the yard side,” Knight said. “Once we got onto the roof and cut openings to get to it, it vented through the holes and we had a working fire in the attic.”

It took about an hour to get the situation under control. The garage is totally lost, but the house is fully salvageable and can be repaired, Knight said.

As for how the fire started, it appears the family of renters there had discarded ashes from a new fire pit they had tested the previous night. They couldn’t get the fire going, so they swept up the ashes and discarded them in a plastic trashcan in the garage, thinking they weren’t too hot.

“The family complained of smelling burning plastic all night,” Knight said. “Then, the next day, the wife looked outside and thought it appeared to be foggy outside. But it wasn’t fog; it was smoke coming from the garage where the fire was spreading.”

No one was hurt, and everyone made it out of the house safely. The family consists of a husband, a wife, seven kids and two dogs. Only the mother and youngest child were home at the time of the incident. 

“Never discard any type of ashes into a plastic container,” Knight said. “Either keep them in a metal container, or wet them down where they’re at until the next morning. And the metal container should be kept outside of any sort of structure in case anything does happen.”

As a reminder, Knight added: “Recreational fires are illegal in Madison Heights.”

About the author

Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski covers Madison Heights, Hazel Park, Madison District Public Schools, Lamphere Public Schools and Hazel Park Public Schools for the Madison-Park News.

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