A team of more than 60 firefighters worked most of the morning Friday to extinguish flames that shot through the Delta Upsilon fraternity house early.
No one was injured during the blaze, according to Ann Arbor Fire Department Battalion Chief Robert Vogel. The cause of the fire still remains undetermined, Vogel said.
The 105-year-old house was the oldest fraternity or sorority house on campus still occupied by the organization that built it, according to the state registry of historic sites.
The Detroit Free Press reported that the home’s value exceeded $1.2 million—- — a figure that does not include the value of the land located at the corner of Hill and Olivia, where the home is located.
After crews were called to the scene at 5:48 a.m., Vogel said a team of fire trucks arrived at the house located at 1331 Hill St. in less than four minutes, but when they got there, the flames had already engulfed most of the first floor.
“There was fire blowing out the front door like a blowtorch,” said Assistant Fire Chief Ed Dziubinski, who was one of the first to arrive on the scene.
After an eyewitness told firefighters that five people were living in the house, Vogel said his crew went into “rescue mode” to locate residents who could have been trapped inside.
Before rescue teams entered the burning building, however, Vogel said they learned by telephone that none of the fraternity members were in the house and all of the residents were accounted for and safe.
That’s when crews got to work extinguishing the flames as quickly as possible.
Vogel said firefighters began on the first floor to put out the worst part of the fire, but by the time they finished, the flames already spread to the second and third floors, eventually engulfing the building’s attic.
When flames began to shoot through the roof of the historic building, Vogel decided to pull firefighters out of the home and fight the fire from outside using the ladder trucks.
The fire was finally extinguished at around 9:30 a.m., but crews worked through most of the day cleaning up and putting out smaller fires still burning throughout the building.
Crews were called back on Saturday morning after they learned of another hot spot burning inside the home.
To help with the day-long efforts by city of Ann Arbor firefighters, additional crews were brought in from the city of Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti County, Pittsfield Township, Scio Township and Ann Arbor Township.
Vogel said an outside crew of professional fire investigators is scheduled to survey the house Monday morning.
“They’ll be in tomorrow to try and rule out some different aspects of what we’re looking at.” Vogel said on Sunday afternoon.
The house was undergoing renovation in some of the bathrooms, which Vogel said has’nt been ruled as a possible source of the flames.
Vogel said he wasn’t sure if the house would be salvageable.
“There was a lot of fire,” Vogel said. “But being a historical building, I’d kind of like to see an effort to save most of the structure if possible.”
The Delta Upsilon fraternity house was built in 1903 and designed by famed architect Albert Kahn, who is credited with the design of Detroit’s Fisher Building and was hired to design the home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford.
When Delta Upsilon fraternity president Dave Cameron learned of the fire, he said he was just happy to hear that the historic home was still standing in one piece. Cameron added that he didn’t have any idea of what could have sparked the flames.
“My first concern, of course, was everybody’s safety,” Cameron said.
The chapter currently has about 40 members and plans to remain active on campus.
“As far as our plans were just looking at other houses around the area,” Cameron said. “But none of those have been solidified yet.”