Firefighters put out blaze in Hazel Park

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published April 23, 2019

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HAZEL PARK — A recent structure fire has officials in Hazel Park reminding residents that batteries should only be used as directed.

A fire broke out at a home in the 30 block of West Muir Avenue before 1 p.m. April 14. Hazel Park firefighters responded, followed by mutual aid from Madison Heights and Ferndale.

According to Hazel Park Fire Chief Richard Story, “When my officer went down John R Road, he said he could see some light smoke about two blocks away, but nothing of much substance — light gray smoke is not a sign of sustained fire. But once they got there, they encountered heavy fire conditions in the room of origin.”

The starting point was a bedroom converted into a workshop with shelving and a desk.

“There was so much fire so that they had to back out and attack through a window,” Story said. “And then we had to go back in to knock the rest down.”

Madison Heights firefighters assisted with extinguishing the flames, while Ferndale firefighters helped ventilate the roof by cutting open a hole to exhaust the heat and smoke. 

“We handled it pretty quick,” Story said. “We got the call at 1 p.m. and we cleared the scene at 2:30 p.m. I’d say that within the first 20-30 minutes, we got it knocked down to the point that we could go in for the overhaul.”

The resident of the wood-frame bungalow is one man living by himself with two cats. Both of his pets died in the fire — likely from smoke inhalation, Story said. The man did not suffer any injuries. Both the workshop where the fire started and a second adjoining room were lost, but the rest of the house is salvageable. 

The fire chief said that the blaze appears to have been caused by the resident tinkering with lithium batteries, trying to convert them into something, which caused a short that sparked the fire. 

“The biggest thing to learn here is use batteries for their purpose,” Story said. “Don’t mess with them or alter the packaging that the factory made them in. Use them for their intended purpose only. Don’t try to rig it into something you want to make on your own. Beyond that, (batteries) are fairly safe — just keep them out of water or direct sunlight in the back of the car for prolonged periods of time.” 

Story said it appeared that the homeowner tried to handle the fire himself first. By the time the firefighters arrived, it had spread. 

He said that the homeowner is connected with the Red Cross and local churches, which can help him while he gets back on his feet. He said that the man didn’t request much when interviewed.

As for how the fire was handled, Story commended his team and mutual aid partners.

“I think all of our departments did very well,” Story said. “But again, so many people get in trouble when they try to alter things (like batteries) for unintended purposes. Just leave stuff alone.”

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