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Youth Facility Fire's Handling Under Debate

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Leaders of the Ann Arbor Tribal Council, including First Ward Councilman Gerald DeGrieck and Genie Plamondon, are calling for an investigation of the Fire Department's handling of the fire which burned out the Community Center Friday, but representatives of five service groups which operated from the center have disassociated themselves from any such investigation. "Somé of the people watching the Fire Department didn't think they moved fast enough," Tribal Council member Linda Ross told The News this morning. "We think they did a bad job and that they could have saved the ballroom if they had been better organized," she said. Tribal Council is closely associated with the Rainbow Peoples Party and claims to represent groups which use the Community Center. However, Glen Fischer, a spokesman for Ozone House, said representatives of Ozone House, the Free Peoples' Medical Glinic, Drug Help, Network and Community Center Project decided at a meeting attended by 100 Sunday night to disassociate themselves from any investigation. "They (Tribal Council) are charging criminal negligence. We are not speakihg in defense of the Department but we don't want to be part of this investigation," Fischer told The News. Fischer, who arrived at the scène of the fire at 1:30 a.m. Saturday, said meetings have been going on all weekend about the fire. "The organizations that have been housed in the Washington Street I munity Center have been working since 1 Saturday morning to find temporary and I permafiént facilities," said Gail Johnson I of Drug Help Inc., reading a joint I ment of the five organizations. "It is imperative that thé vital I vices of these groups are continued," she I added. Fischer said representatives of the I group would appear at the City Council ! session tonight to seek "the commumty's I sympathy." Pete Masón, who works at Ozone I House and viewed the fire, said: "At the time I observed the fire there I was no evidence of any misconduct by I members of the Fire Department. I feel I they did a good job, that they were courteous and sympathetic - at least I superficially." The city owns the community center I and leases it to the Community Center Coordinating committee which is a coali tion of the groups there. However, since City Council donates funds to the groups, there is virtually no rent. Fire Chief Arthur L. Stauch defended actions by his men at the scène, noting that firefighters had to contend with three separate "backflashes," stifling smoke and an inaccessible path to the source of the fire. I "We're fortúnate we didn't lose a pie of men in that fire," Stauch said. I "We did everything we could to put out I that blaze as f ast as possible." The chief noted that "backflashes" are I among the most dangerous factors I ing firefighters at the scène. They are I I actually sudden explosions of fire, I brought on by an accumulatiori and then I an iginiting of gases and combustibles. I He said three times while his men were I battling the Community Center blaze I "backflashes" occurred. "This fire source was in the I ment," Stauch says. "To reach it you'd I have to go down a stairway at the front I or off a small alley at the side. It was I possible to get men in either way I cause of smoke and heat." The chief sajd his men used 48 tanks I of oxygen for smoke masks during the I fire and finally reached the basement I fire source by chopping holes in the first floor with power saws and pry bars. He said an investigation of the fire is still continuing by Fire Inspector Benjamin Zahn Jr. The Tribal Council consists of a number of different committees including a I food cooperative, the Ann Arbor Sun, I skilled trades and recycling committees. The Tribal Council also plans to ask I City Council allow them to rebuild the ballroom portion of the Community CenI ter at 502 E. Washington. Tribal Council I sponsored films and weekly dances in I the ballroom. Fire department officials reported that I the building was almost a total loss. NoI body was reported injured by the blaze I but more than 100 persons were inside I when smoke and ñames were discovered I coming up from the basement. Donations to the Community V Center I Coordinating Committee should go to I post office box 366.