The historical three-story, yellow home-turned-apartment complex located on the northeast corner of East Ann and North Division streets went up in smoke yesterday, leaving at least one resident temporarily homeless and a dozen others living with family and friends.
Firefighters first received the call that the 15-unit building – which has two addresses, at 208 N. Division St. and 499 E. Ann St. – was on fire at about 11:20 a.m., said Ann Arbor Fire Department First Battalion Chief Louis Johnson.
In addition to the fire damage done to the building’s interior, witnesses said several of the windows were shattered and the roof over the addition was destroyed.
“When I looked outside around 11 or 11:30 there were two or three fire trucks behind the house, and two more on Ann and there was a Red Cross emergency vehicle. I could see the house and I could see the smoke,” said LSA senior Sarah Ensor, who lives next door to the burned home. “The addition seems to be almost entirely destroyed by the fire.”
Neighbors said the blaze caught them off-guard, as fire trucks, Ann Arbor Police Department squad cars and Red Cross emergency vehicles filled up the blocks surrounding the house. Both Division and Ann were temporarily sealed off while firefighters worked to stop the blaze.
The cause and origin of the fire are still unknown, Johnson said, adding that city fire inspectors were at the scene from early afternoon and working throughout the evening, using flashlights as they walked through the rubble.
Johnson estimated that inspectors would determine the cause within the next three days.
He added he did not know if anyone was inside the building at the time the fire started.
The house is comprised of an eight-unit main area facing Division and joined to a five-unit, two story addition on Ann. The preliminary damage is estimated at $500,000. The building is leased out to students and Ann Arbor residents by Ann Arbor Realty, Inc.
By 3:30 p.m., Red Cross staff was offering student tenants relocation assistance and offering them blankets, bedding and groceries. Spokeswoman Pamela Reading-Smith said last night that most of the tenants, many of whom are students, found housing with friends or through Ann Arbor Realty.
A representative rom Ann Arbor Realty could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Only one student accepted the Red Cross’s offer so far, but Reading-Smith said she expects at least four others to require long-term housing accommodations.
“Five units have been completely destroyed,” she said. “We’re assuming those people will never be able to get back in there. They may need some clothing, they may need to extend their grocery (assistance).”
She added that Ann Arbor Realty was quick in offering the Red Cross their aid.
“Our job is to do whatever it takes to make sure they get clothing and shelter,” Reading-Smith said. “In this case, it’s quite good that the Ann Arbor Realty can help out. They seem to be organized to handle emergencies and very quick to respond.”