The Sterling Heights Fire Department responded to a massive apartment fire on Christmas morning at the Sterling Troy Apartments.
Despite quick work by SHFD and aid provided by neighboring fire departments, the fire resulted in 50 families displaced and an estimated more than $2.5 million in damage.
Just after 9 a.m. on Dec. 25, SHFD was alerted to a fire at the Sterling Troy Apartments on Dequindre south of 15 Mile. Upon the arrival of the first units, fire crews were confronted with a heavy body of fire that was rapidly spreading through the first floor and extending up into the second floor and attic, said Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin. A second alarm was called early on as SHFD battled the blaze, as well as all firefighting resources from the five fire stations in Sterling Heights.
“It was obvious that there were many residents still inside the building, so crews began a aggressive and coordinated effort to try to slow the flame spread and rescue trapped occupants,” Martin said.
The first few minutes of the incident were very chaotic, Martin said. One SHFD firefighter was incapacitated by a fractured leg when he became entangled in a fire hose. Several other firefighters were searching for and removing residents from the apartment building when two of those firefighters became trapped in an apartment on the second floor. Luckily, crews on the outside were able to get a ladder to them in order for them to escape with no injuries. In addition, Police Officers from Sterling Heights and Troy rescued several occupants using ladders from the fire trucks on scene.
The fire spread quickly and was in or above about 50 units of the 120 unit complex. A third alarm was struck and the firefighters were able to contain the fire to the affected portion of the building. While the fire was contained, it was not brought under control for several hours, until about 2 p.m. The fire was further complicated by the type of construction, which contained a truss roof built over the original flat roof, Martin said. This hampered the ability of the firefighters to get at the fire that was between the original roof and the existing roof. Portions of the building also collapsed in on itself, making it difficult to get to the burning materials below.
Families displaced by the fire were aided by the City of Sterling Heights and the Red Cross on Christmas Day. A shelter was opened at the Sterling Heights Senior Center and a bus was used to shuttle people to the location. The Red Cross was on scene and at the temporary shelter to help the residents in any way they could.
Fire crews from Clinton Township, Warren, Utica, Shelby Township, Washington Township, Fraser and the Detroit Arsenal sent crews to the scene for several hours, while fire crews from Macomb Township, Roseville and Chesterfield Township manned the vacant fire stations with help from Universal Macomb Ambulance Service to handle the other incidents around the city. The injured firefighter was taken to Beaumont Troy where he underwent surgery to repair a fractured leg. He is expected to make a full recovery, but it is expected the injury will take several months to heal.
“While a fire of this magnitude on Christmas Day is tragic, I’m very grateful for the quick work of the Sterling Heights Fire Department — as well as our neighboring communities — to rescue the families at Sterling Troy Apartments,” said Sterling Heights Mayor Michael C. Taylor. “Thank you to all of our first responders for their dedication to keeping everyone safe.”
Martin said the fire started accidentally when a discarded cigarette became lodged in an air conditioning unit, which then possibly malfunctioned and caused a fire ball that spread quickly, despite the resident’s effort to extinguish the fire. The fire caused significant damage to several units and smoke or water damage to dozens more. The damage is estimated to be at $2,500,000 including contents.
Arianna Woznak, Property Manager at Sterling Troy Apartments, said donations to the displaced families are welcome. Woznak said the complex is accepting any forms of generosity, but encourages the basic necessities for personal care if donors are looking for ideas. Gift cards to cover basic necessities (i.e.: WalMart, Meijer, Target) are welcome as well. Woznak said there were a handful of families with children 10 and younger that lost their Christmas along with all of their personal belongings.
Donations can be dropped off at Sterling Troy Apartments, 34350 Dequindre, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Anyone with additional questions can contact Woznak at (586) 268-2193.
For more information, please contact Fire Chief Chris Martin at 586-446-2951 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.