Posted on April 16, 2008

Julie Rowe
A housefire at 423 Benjamin Street caused extensive damage to the porch and first floor. (SAID ALSALAH/Daily)
Julie Rowe

The house 423 Benjamin Street, occupied by five University students, caught fire earlier this evening after embers from a hookah pipe ignited a couch on its porch.

The fire consumed the porch and first floor and caused “heavy” smoke damage to the second and third floors of the house located near the intersection of State Street and Packard Street, said Captain Jim Bud of the Ann Arbor Fire Department. No one was injured.

Battalion Chief Craig Ferris said the fire started because of “careless smoking” after residents left burning embers from a hookah pipe on the couch.

The fire, which began at about 7 p.m., was extinguished by 7:30 p.m.

As firefighters arrived and began putting out the fire at 7:10 p.m., students and onlookers gathered to watch the blaze.

LSA junior Alex Whang smelled smoke from his room at about 7 p.m. When he looked out his second-story window, he saw what he called a “small flame” burning on the couch on his neighbors’ porch.

The fire was “out of control” by the time he got outside, Whang said.

When Lindsey McCartney glanced up from her textbooks across the street, she saw the couch at 423 Benjamin Street ablaze and called 911.

“One of the guys from the house turned the couch over, but then the entire thing just blew up and their entire house was on fire within two or three minutes,” she said.

LSA senior Edi David, who watched the fire from across the street, said she saw one resident of the house run across the street in a panic as he tried to call his housemates.

Upon seeing their smoldering house, the four residents were cursing and “helplessly watching” their house billow with flames, David said.

After the fire was extinguished, Dean of Students Sue Eklund arrived to offer help to the house’s residents.

Eklund said its “part of the drill” for the Office of the Dean of Students to offer emergency housing and assistance to students.

She said the residents chose to stay with friends.

The residents declined to comment.

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