April 17, 2010 - 7:10pm
By: Dylan Cinti and Jacob Smilovitz
- Jake Fromm/Daily
Authorities are investigating a second night of “suspicious fires” in Ann Arbor last night, this time at four off-campus locations, according to a crime alert released this morning.
Two fires were reported in the 700 block of South Forest Avenue, one in the 900 block of Church Street, and another in the 100 block of Oakland Avenue.
All of the fires are said to involve vehicles, and no structures were impacted last night, the crime alert states.
In an interview today, Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Diane Brown said the first fire was reported at about 1:45 a.m. Brown said all four fires occurred within the span of one hour, with the last taking place at roughly 2:45 a.m.
Brown emphasized that while DPS is not directly involved in the ongoing investigations, officials are concerned about the proximity of the fires to the University community.
“These (fires) are happening in areas which are heavily populated by students, and we want to ensure students are aware of that,” Brown said.
As of 5 p.m. today, Ann Arbor Police Department officials said they would not comment on the incident, but said they are currently working with the Ann Arbor Fire Department in the investigation.
In interviews this afternoon, students who live in the area said they witnessed commotion and smelled smoke around the time of the fires.
LSA senior Alicja Sobilo who lives in an apartment complex on the 700 block of South Forest Avenue, said she went into the lobby of her apartment building at about 1:45 a.m., soon after the fire there began.
Sobilo said a large group of women from Alpha Delta Pi sorority house located across the street at 722 South Forest Ave. had congregated in the apartment complex’s lobby, adding that the lobby was packed.
“There were girls with blankets,” Sobilo said. “Some of them seemed really worried.”
Sobilo said several of the women in the lobby told her a truck was on fire in their parking lot. Sobilo added that though she smelled smoke, at no point did she see actual flames.
When contacted today, Business School sophomore Ashley Anderson, Alpha Delta Pi’s president, declined to comment on last night’s fires.
Another member of Alpha Delta Pi answered the door of the sorority house today but also refused to provide comment.
LSA senior Harrison Taylor, who lives on South Forest’s 700 Block, also said he smelled smoke but did not see fire.
“I saw an ambulance, fire trucks, a bunch of cops and I could smell smoke, but I didn’t see any fire,” Taylor said.
Another fire occurred in an alley behind The Abbey, according to another tenant of the apartment complex.
Jessica Miller, a student at Ann Arbor’s Washtenaw Community College who shares an apartment in the complex with several University students, said she was in her apartment at the time of the fire and witnessed the commotion.
“People said they had been walking and then they saw bright lights and realized it was fire,” Miller said.
In a similar incident two weeks ago, a blaze charred three cars beneath the Abbey complex. That fire caused smoke damage to some of the units near the flaming cars, according to an April 3 article in The Michigan Daily.
Miller expressed concern and fear about the two separate incidents so close to one another.
“It’s really disconcerting, it’s really scary,” she said.
The Ann Arbor Police Department is offering up to a $5,000 reward for information on the fires. As of 9 a.m. this morning, authorities say there are no suspects. If anyone has any information about the “suspicious behavior around parked cars,” they’re being asked to contact police immediately.
Last night's string of fires come exactly two weeks after a similar series of fires in Ann Arbor. Though all of the April 3 fires reportedly started outside of buildings, the blazes did reach at least one building and caused structural damage. That fire gutted a rental house at 928 S. State street, killing 22-year-old Eastern Michigan University student Renden LeMasters and injuring two others.
According to an April 7 report in The Michigan Daily, Ann Arbor's police and fire departments are split over whether or not the fires on April 3 can be classified as arson.