Two-alarm fire causes significant damage to six townhomes

By: Mike Koury | Shelby - Utica News | Published January 29, 2018

UTICA — Six townhomes were badly damaged, with three said to be destroyed, after a two-alarm fire broke out at around 10:33 a.m. Friday, Jan. 19, on Birchcrest Street.

The cause of the fire still was under investigation as of Friday, Jan. 26, according to Utica Fire Chief Kevin Wilseck, but it is suspected to be electrical.

Wilseck said the fire is believed to have started in the basement of a townhome, and an owner told fire officials that he heard “crackling” and saw flames on the other side of a door.

Unfortunately, the conditions worsened with the fire, so Wilseck said he had to pull out his firefighters and call a second alarm.

“Being it’s a six-unit structure — it’s kind of a larger building — so we needed assistance,” he said. “We were taxed with the people I had. I had 12 people on scene, and we just weren’t cutting it with the people we had.”

Backup arrived from nearby fire departments, which included Shelby Township, Sterling Heights, Washington Township and Macomb Township. Rochester Hills also helped by filling in at Utica’s station and taking calls.

Wilseck said that with the additional help, the fire was under control at 12:40 p.m, but the damage was enough to displace residents from their townhomes.

“There are three that are completely destroyed,” he said. “The rest of them were heavily smoke damaged. None of (the residents) were able to return to their apartments to live there.”

Wilseck believes the Red Cross put up the residents in motels and their insurance is helping them find temporary housing.

As for the damage caused by the fire, Wilseck estimated that there was $375,000 in building damages and $200,000 in content damages, totaling around $575,000 overall.