- Chris Dzombak/Daily
BY DAILY STAFF
Published October 24, 2009
Correction appended: For a previous version of this story, Ann Arbor Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dziubinski told the Daily that the fire department began receiving calls about the fire "around 10:13 p.m." In a subsequent interview, Dziubinski corrected himself, saying that the calls in fact began at 11:51 p.m.
Ann Arbor firefighters fought back flames late Saturday night that raged from an abandoned building located in between Momo Tea and University Towers on the 1200 block of South University Avenue.
The inferno caused the building’s roof to collapse. The building is the former location of Pinball Pete’s, which now stands across the street from the scene of the fire. As the building burned, it still bore a sign that read, “Campus Pinball.”
Ann Arbor Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dziubinski said the department got a number of calls starting at 11:51 p.m., most of which came from people in the University Towers apartment complex.
When firefighters arrived there, within three minutes, “the building was fully engulfed in flames,” Dziubinski said.
He added that 45 firefighters from both the Pittsfield Township Fire Department and the Ann Arbor Fire Department were working to combat the fire. He also said that he does not suspect foul play, but did add that the incident is still under investigation.
Dziubinski said he still didn’t know as of 12:45 a.m. how many students were displaced by the fire, which caused some damage to the third floor of University Towers. But emergency personnel did evacuate 600 students from the building, Dziubinski said.
In a phone interview at about 1:10 a.m. early Sunday morning, University Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said the Dean of Students office and University Housing were in the process of determining which students needed temporary shelter or actual housing.
“People are working on it,” Brown said. “We haven’t evaluated completely the scope of the issue at hand or how many people really need a relocation.”
University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham wrote in an e-mail just after 1:30 a.m. that Laura Blake Jones, the University’s Dean of Students, was on the scene assisting students.
Brown added that she did not know of anyone needing to receive medical attention.
When Daily reporters arrived on the scene at around 11:00 p.m. Saturday night, crowds slowly began to line the sidewalk of South University Avenue from the corner of East University Avenue to South Forest Avenue and stayed there for about an hour.
As firefighters tried to quell the flames, Marni Glovinsky, who said she has lived in Ann Arbor her whole life, was standing directly across the street from the inferno with her hands on her face, sobbing.
She said she remembered going to Pinball Pete's almost every day as a teenager.
“It’s like watching your whole childhood burn down,” she said.
The roof and windows of the building were burning and billowing with smoke, but by sometime between 12:15 a.m. and 12:30 a.m. the fire had been mostly contained.
LSA sophomore Navya Varshney said she was watching the fire in her room on the eighth floor of University Towers for about five minutes before she and her roommates decided to pull the fire alarm and leave the building at around 10:50 p.m. or 11 p.m.
“We were literally right above the fire,” she said.
LSA sophomore Giovanny Navarro, who lives on the 11th floor of University Towers, said he didn’t leave the building until around 11:50 p.m., when police officers came through and forced everyone to evacuate the building, though the alarm had already been sounding for about a half hour.
Navarro said he decided not to leave when he first heard the alarm because he could see the smoke wasn’t coming from his building, adding that many other residents did the same thing.
Law School student Keil Hur, who also lives in University Towers, said he smelled smoke in the building before he heard the alarm.
“We smelled something burning, after a while I heard sirens outside,” he said. “10 to 15 minutes later the alarm came on. The hall was full of smoke.”
— Daily News Editors Matt Aaronson, Trevor Calero and Kyle Swanson and Daily Staff Reporters Mallory Jones and Emily Orley reported this story. It was written by Daily News Editors Jillian Berman and Jacob Smilovitz.