Unit ‘total loss’ after Sunday morning fire

By: Kristyne E. Demske | Online Only | Published April 22, 2013

No one was hurt in a weekend blaze that destroyed at least one condominium in a complex on Jefferson Avenue and spread to three other units.

St. Clair Shores Fire Chief George Morehouse said a resident in the 33000 block of Jefferson Avenue called at 7:50 a.m. April 21. The unit closest to Lake St. Clair was the original source of the fire, he said.

“It appears to have started in the fireplace,” he said. “Crews arrived on the scene and, upon investigation, the fire had already chased its way up the chimney into the attic space.”

Because the wind was blowing in east from the lake, Morehouse said the fire spread across the attic of four units in the building, part of the St. Clair by the Lake condo community community, which is made up of six, four-unit buildings. The two-alarm fire had crews from Clinton and Harrison townships, Fraser and Roseville helping out St. Clair Shores firefighters, and the Warren Fire Department helping to staff Central Station while St. Clair Shores personnel were on the scene.

The department was also able to use Selfridge Air National Guard’s portable air unit to fill air bottles for firefighters fighting the blaze.

“The building where the fire originated, we had a total collapse of the roof,” Morehouse said.

The second floor collapsed into the first floor, which fell into the basement, he explained.

“Obviously, that’s a total loss,” he said.

Working its way inland from the lake, the fire caused extensive damage to the second unit, which now has a weakened structure, he said. The third and fourth units in line have water and smoke damage because of the fire in the attic.

He said there were no injuries from  the fire. One of the units was unoccupied at the time but the other three were all evacuated.

“The (condominium) already has a contractor on site to secure it and start making whatever remediation they’re going to do,” Morehouse said.

Ron Susick, president of the St. Clair by the Lake Condo Association, said the entire building will likely end up being rebuilt, to some degree, based on their preliminary investigation. The condominium was built in 1973.

In a statement, Susick said the 24 owners is “extremely grateful that no owner or Fire Department personnel were injured.”

“Rebuilding a home and life after a fire is an extremely difficult task to face,” he continued. “We, the board of directors, will work diligently with the owners and all agencies to expedite and complete this enormous undertaking.”

He said the building is completely locked and boarded up, and the affected residents are being helped by their insurance agencies. The initial investigation has found that the two units closest to the lake “are pretty well gone,” while there may be some salvageable parts of the other two units.