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Man dies in house fire

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 18, 2016

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A 64-year-old Sterling Heights resident died in one of two house fires that occurred on the same day recently.

According to the Fire Department, at about 9:25 p.m. July 8, five Sterling Heights fire stations coordinated to put out a house fire in the 2000 block of Newell Drive. As Sterling Heights firefighters worked, the Warren and Clinton Township fire departments were asked to assist in guarding the city from additional problems.

According to Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin, the Fire Department believes that the fire was caused by “careless smoking.”

“Smoking is dangerous,” he said. “You ought to make sure that you discard your cigarettes properly.”

The Fire Department said one occupant died inside the home. According to an email from Fire Marshal Michael Bauss, the occupant was identified as Paul Chmielewski, 64.

Bauss said Chmielewski’s body was found in the basement at the bottom of some stairs, “as if attempting to go up the stairway.” However, Bauss said the fire started in a ground-floor family room.

He also explained that “insurance records indicate Mr. Chmielewski had a previous fire loss from careless smoking over 10 years ago.”

“Evidence of careless smoking was found throughout the house, (and it) included using plastic food containers as ashtrays in the bedrooms, family room, and computer desk area,” Bauss added.

Martin also said the home didn’t have any working smoke detectors, and he encouraged people to install functioning detectors in their homes.

The heat and humidity outside contributed to making the Newell fire tougher to put out, fire officials said. According to Martin, a firefighter went to the hospital due to heat-related injuries and was later released.

“The firefighter that was injured was basically dehydrated,” Martin said.

The blaze resulted in heavy damage — about $195,000 in property damage, as well as about $100,000 in content losses, fire officials said.

In addition, Fire Department officials said four Sterling Heights fire stations collaborated to extinguish a house fire in the 2000 block of Nadine Drive at around 11:22 a.m. July 8, but that fire resulted in no injuries to firefighters or the public. According to the Fire Department’s press release, the fire was apparently accidental and originated in the basement, and Martin said it seems to have been caused by an electrical issue.

Property loss was estimated at $120,000, and about $100,000 in belongings were destroyed, city officials said.

Anyone who has more information about either of these incidents is encouraged to contact the Sterling Heights Fire Department by calling (586) 446-2950.

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