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Fire damages 10 apartments at Lake Village, cause not yet known
Updated On: Jun 13, 2009

Update: Fire damages 10 apartments at Lake Village, cause not yet known

by Jo Mathis | The Ann Arbor News
Wednesday October 22, 2008, 6:09 PM

With his golden retriever puppy on a leash, John Beach watched as fire engulfed his Ann Arbor apartment building this afternoon.

He figured there wouldn't be much left - and what was still there would be water-damaged.

"But we're all OK," he said with a shrug. "When you almost lose your son to respiratory failure three weeks ago, this isn't even on the scale."

A fire heavily damaged an apartment building at Lake Village Apartments on Ann Arbor's south side Wednesday afternoon.

As the fire raged, his wife, Sharon, was with their 22-year-old son, Zach, at the University of Michigan Hospital, where Zach was dealing with complications from lifelong spinal muscular atrophy.

"Zach told me (on the phone) that he wanted me to save a picture his best friend had painted of him walking, and he's never walked before," said Beach, his voice breaking for the first time. "That's all he wanted."

It's not known yet what caused the fire, which damaged or destroyed 10 units of the Lake Village Apartments off South Main Street between Briarwood Mall and Busch's grocery store. No injuries were reported.

A crowd of people stood outside the complex, watching as several fire departments helped battle the blaze as it quickly spread from one unit to the next. The smoke could be seen for blocks away.

DeAunderia Byant said that at about 2:30 p.m., she smelled chemicals in the air as she was leaving the complex.

"The next thing I knew, there was a big thing of smoke coming up, and then we saw the flames," she said.

Ann Arbor Fire Chief Sam Hopkins said that considering the fire began during the daytime, it was surprising no one called sooner.

"When we got here, fire was coming up through the roof, and we were fighting an uphill battle after that," he said. "The wind was a big factor - a big detriment."

When firefighters arrived, damage was heaviest in an upper-floor corner balcony, and flames shot through the roof and were quickly spreading. Firefighters worked in the interior of the building, but were forced to leave as parts threatened to collapse.

Hopkins said that with so much destruction, it will be difficult to determine the cause of the fire.

Reporter Jo Collins Mathis can be reached at 734-994-6849 or jmathis@annarbornews.com.


University of Michigan student Anthony Lupa said he and his wife were eating lunch in their dining room, which looks out at the building. They noticed a few people knocking on windows in the building, and spotted just a little smoke coming out of the vents.

"It burst into flames very, very quickly," Lupa said.

Lupa called 911 at 2:38 p.m.. and learned the fire department was already on the way. He then called his neighbor, who owned the top corner apartment.

Management ordered media off the property and declined to comment. The Washtenaw County chapter of the American Red Cross was there within about an hour, setting up in the office, ready to give aid to the suddenly homeless.

The Beach family, who have renters' insurance, had just bought new medical equipment for Zach. Beach assumed it was all ruined. They lived on the ground floor apartment because it's wheelchair-accessible.

Beach said he'll stay at the hospital tonight, and will stay with relatives and friends after that. The family loves living at Lake Village, he said, and hopes to return one day soon.

 

Ann Arbor Firefighters Local 693
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