Asleep in his basement room, Engineering senior Scott Perrin did not smell or see the smoke that was gradually engulfing his house. Not until his roommates called his cell phone at about 4 a.m. did Perrin wake up to realize the life-threatening situation he was in.
Without thinking, Perrin grabbed his wallet, put on his shorts and ran upstairs. He escaped to safety through a side door as the front porch blazed.
Five of his seven roommates were waiting outside – many half-dressed and shoeless – watching the fire swell into their house.
The last of the roommates did not wake as easily as Perrin – his roommates tried unsuccessfully to wake him minutes earlier by first pounding on the door and then kicking it down.
About five minutes after everyone else escaped, the 21-year-old senior jumped out his second-story window.
He is currently being treated at the Burn Trauma Center at the Hospital.
LSA senior Jon Pargament said his housemate’s condition has stabilized, but he is still in serious condition.
All of the housemates spent most of yesterday at the hospital to follow up on his recovery.
Pargament said the fire alarm went off, but it was not heard until everyone made it to safety because the fire started outside.
The house, located on 730 Arbor St., did not have a fire escape.
Landlord David DeYoung did not return repeated calls from The Michigan Daily.
LSA senior and former Daily editor Andrew Kaplan, who lived in the house, said many of the cars nearby were severely damaged – three of them belonging to his housemates.
“The bodies of the car melted along with the headlights,” said Kaplan, a former Daily news editor. “One of the car’s windows shattered. Basically, anything plastic was singed and melted.”
Kaplan said all of his roommates were in agreement that the fire started on the porch.
Assistant Fire Chief Chris Brenner confirmed the residents’ suspicion. Due to the excessive charring on the porch, he said fire inspectors identified the porch as the area of origin.
Brenner said it still was under investigation what caused the fire.
Whether or not a couch on the porch fueled the fire, the incident has reinvigorated the notorious couch-on-porch ban ordinance that came about two summers ago.
City Council member Joan Lowenstein (D-2nd Ward) said she was willing at the time and still is now to go along with the fire inspector’s recommendation that couches are a fire hazard.
“We don’t know for certain what started the fire, but there is no question in my mind that having these very flammable couches on porches is a bad idea,” she said.
Mayor John Hieftje said the incident has not changed his original opinion, but if there was new evidence he would take it into consideration.
“This was a very serious incident, but someone would have to prove the couches on a porch are more likely to burn than couches in a living room,” he said.
Business senior Rishi Mukhi, who lived at the house, said none of his housemates had renter’s insurance, but some of them are covered by their parents’ homeowners insurance.
In their panic, many of the residents grabbed little more than a few belongings such as a pair of shorts, cell phones, wallets or keys.
LSA senior Kyle Polasek picked up a laundry basket with clean clothes on his way out. He was able to supply his half-dressed roommates, including one roommate who was wearing only a towel, with clothing.
With few belongings surviving the fire, Mukhi said the Red Cross gave them a debit card, which they used later that day at Steve and Barry’s to buy clothes. He said the Red Cross also arrived on the scene early on with blankets, food and toiletries.
Along with the Red Cross, The University has tended to many of the students’ needs.
University spokeswoman Julie Peterson said the University has contacted all the students’ instructors, granting them financial assistance to buy back many of their lost belongings and is in the process of helping them find temporary and permanent housing,
Mukhi said Dean of Students Sue Eklund even showed up at the hospital to reassure them that the University could provide them with necessary assistance.
Even though a new house has not been chosen, Mukhi said his housemates hope to find a place where they can all live together again.
“We want find a place together. If anything, this brought us a lot closer together,” Mukhi said.