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Grosse Pointe Farms

Three-alarm blaze snakes through Merriweather house

March 5, 2013

Working smoke detectors may have saved a Farms couple from a fire hidden between the walls of their home.

At around 10:30 p.m. March 3, Deputy Public Safety Director John Hutchins said his department got the fire call after a smoke alarm at the house went off. Public safety officers immediately responded to the home in the first block of Merriweather, where they were greeted by the residents, who had been awakened by the smoke alarm but couldn’t find evidence of a fire inside.

The couple told officers they had had a fire burning in a first-floor fireplace earlier in the day, but it had long since been extinguished. Hutchins said emergency responders went inside to investigate and saw nothing happening in the fireplace. However, as they continued to check the home, they eventually spotted smoke coming from the attic and a second-floor bathroom electrical outlet.

Although the exact cause hadn’t been determined at press time, Hutchins said officers believe there may have been a compromise in the chimney, because they did encounter a fire between the walls of the old house.

“We’re still doing the investigation now,” he said.

Officers called second and third alarms, bringing in additional equipment and manpower from the public safety departments of Grosse Pointe City and Grosse Pointe Park to tackle the blaze. Hutchins said because the fire was moving, officers had to open up walls around and above the fireplace all the way up to the attic.

“They were trying to find out where it was traveling and where it was moving,” he said.

After they knocked the fire down, Hutchins said officers continued to fight hot spots until the entire blaze was out. Although the house suffered “extensive interior damage” due to smoke and water, he said the officers were able to contain the fire without breaking any windows or doors, and no one sustained any injuries. Officers also attempted to save some of the couple's valuables, covering some belongings with tarps and removing artwork, he said. The house isn’t livable at this point, but likely isn’t a total loss, Hutchins said.

“It’s always tragic when people lose their property, but the officers did a good job,” he said. “You really could have had a tragic situation if (the occupants hadn’t been awakened by the smoke alarm). It’s a perfect example of (the importance of having) working smoke detectors in the house.”

Residents are urged to have functioning smoke detectors throughout their homes, and to check them regularly to make sure that they’re working. Hutchins said some alarms can even contact public safety directly if evidence of a fire is found, as was apparently the case for this address.

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