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Fire at Amer's displaces students, affects nearby businesses

Austen Hufford/Daily
A firetruck reports to the fire at 611 Church St. that started when a deep fryer ignited at Amer’s Delicatessen on Monday afternoon. Buy this photo

By Austen Hufford, Daily Staff Reporter
and Giacomo Bologna, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 10, 2012

The Ann Arbor Fire Department responded to a report of a fire at Amer’s Delicatessen on Church Street at about 4:10 p.m. Monday.

According to witnesses at the scene, smoke was coming from the front door of Amer’s and the roof of the apartment building located above Amer’s. No injuries were reported, and it is unclear when residents who live in the apartment building will be allowed back in the building.

Restoration workers on the scene said there was about 140 gallons of water damage inside Rick’s American Café, located in the same building.

AAFD Captain Jim Budd said a deep fryer on the first floor of the restaurant appeared to be responsible for the fire when the grease in it ignited. Budd speculated that the equipment then malfunctioned, rendering the fire suppression systems unable to contain the grease.

A handful of fire trucks — including one with its ladder extended to the roof of the building — and emergency response vehicles were on the scene.

Craig Sidelinger, a safety officer with the AAFD, said the fire was active when the firefighters arrived at the scene.

LSA junior Remi Forster, a resident of 611 Church St., said she initially thought the alarms were a drill, but was quickly evacuated from the building.

“Someone ran through the building yelling, ‘Get out, get out,’” she said.

Forster added that she saw an oven in Amer's engulfed in flames once she was forced from her apartment.

“It was surreal,” she said.

As firefighters climbed to the roof and entered the building, student residents of the complex milled around outside, alongside concerned passersby and employees and patrons of businesses within the building who anxiously awaited more information from the AAFD.

Budd said residents will not be let back in until the fire system in the building is reset and functioning properly.

Another malfunction to investigate is an error with some fire alarms within apartments.

LSA senior Rebecca Noren, another resident who lives at 611 Church St., said she was in her apartment when the alarms began to sound, but it turned off after approximately 20 to 30 seconds.

“We didn't even know anything was happening until I ran downstairs and saw smoke in Amer’s,” Noren said.

According to Sidelinger, they are investigating these reports.

“We’re looking into that, but at this point we cannot comment,” he said.

Residents of the apartment building said they were waiting to hear when they would be able to return to their apartments.

Firefighters advised that in the event students are unable to find housing, the American Red Cross will provide temporary shelter.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said the University provides aid to students who are victims of fires or other disasters if the Division of Student Affairs is notified, acknowledging that the Red Cross is often able to respond to incidents such as today's fire.

Dan Clark — owner of Dollar Bill Copying, located inside the affected building — said his store suffered only slight smoke damage.

He said he spoke to Amer Bathish, owner of Amer’s, and Bathish had a “let’s get this fixed and move on” attitude.

LSA senior Brett Pere said he and his roommates at 611 Church St. were able to enter their apartment later Monday evening to retrieve some of their personal belongings, most notably a case of beer.

“Just the essentials, really,” Pere joked. “It’s still Monday Night Football.”

Daily News Editor Adam Rubenfire and Daily Staff Reporter Jennifer Lee contributed to this report.


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