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Fire Code Not Met Where Two Perished

Fire Code Not Met Where Two Perished image
Parent Issue
Day
26
Month
April
Year
1974
Copyright
Copyright Protected
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Donated by the Ann Arbor News. © The Ann Arbor News.
OCR Text

(Editor's Note: TTite foUowfng report on the fatal Woodland' Mills apartment fire :;s based on an investigaron by News pólice reporter William B. Treml, and staff reporters Joáy Vellncci and Lee Wilkins. Treml wrote the report.) Buildings in the Woodland Hills apartment complex in Pittsfield Township where two persions died early Thursday morning in a fire had 118 violations listed by fire officials in an inspection made last month. Five of the violations were in "Building, 11," the structure at 3123 Scenic Lake Dr. where two University of Michigan students, Lanson J. Carrothers Jr., and Leslie Lynn Nagle, died. Both were 20. Carrothers was a Madison Heights native and Miss Nagle was born in Ann Arbor but more recently had lived in Royal Oak. She was a sophomore at U-M. Pittsfield Township Fire Chief James Kay said his department inspected ' the Woodland Hills complex at the request of management officials. When contacted by The News at its Southfield offices, the receptionist for Bell Development Co., the complex' owners, said there was "no one in a management capacity at the office." The complex is located on the south side of Packard Rd. about one-fourth of a , mile east of Carpenter Rd. The area is about midway between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Most of the violations were found in the apartment buildings constructed in the late 1960's. The dwelling where the fatal fire occurred was put up in 1970. The complex consists of 14 apartment buildings and a club house used by resident of the dwellings. The first of the units was erected in 1967 and the last in 1970. The 118 violations include holes in, drywalls and ceilings, no fire walls in attics, fire doors blocked open, ceiling lights hanging by wires and no fire stop material in electrical panels. Chief Kay said the management of Woodland Hills was given until July 1 fó correct the fire violations. He said some of the corrections would require the company to take bids on items like dry walls. I IIII1MIIMMMIIII .1 niapeuuun is the only, -building inspectioi ade by the Pittsfield Fire Department. Normally when a fire complaint is received only the specific item being checked into is inspected, Chief Kay said. The inspections are made in spare time but two additional full time inspectors will be hired by the township on July 1, Chief Kay said. He declined to say if the 118 viola - tions found in Woodland Hills were an unusual number for an apartment complex of that size. Chief Kay admitted there were "many stories" about fire code deficiencies in Woodland Hills. "But most of them are just stories," he said. "First of all it must be realized exists no state law requiring a building of this type to have sprinkler systems or smoke detectors. There were fire stops in this building. The whole complex was constructed before township ordinances on fire hazards were passed." The chief said there were no fire extinguishers in the burned building but in maiiy such structures extinguishers are stolen álmost as fast as they are placed in position. He said Woodland Hills fire extinguishers "last about a week" before they are stolen. They cost between $35 ! and Y40, he said. i Township Supervisor A. Lillie pointed out that the township passed an ordinance in May, 1973 requiring sprinkler systems which actívate when a fire breaks out to be installed in all new apartment buildings erected in the township. A similar ordinance requiring smoke detectors was passed in August, 1973. But Lillie noted the ordinances are not retroactive and so do not apply to Woodland Hills which had its first building up in 1967. The Scenic Lake Dr. structure which burned was erected in 1970. In that inspection of Building 11, the structure where the fatal fire occurred, five hazardous fire practices were noted öri Chief Kay's report. All were on the first floor and included holes in the drywall of the storage rooms, a fire door blocked, storage under stairways and toys blocking hallway. There were holes in the drywall of "all furnace rooms," the report showed. The list of violations for Building 11 was considerably jshorter than that for I other buildings in! the Woodland Hills I complex. Chief Kay said the fataí fire Thursday I started in the basement storage room. I That storage room is one of the places I cited in the March inspection report as a I hazardous spot. íünó cáuse or the fire has I as yet been ascertained. The blaze spread quickly up walls into the first floor of the apartment building! and soon had traveled to the roof, ChiefB Kay said. He said his department sum-B moned help froro Ypsilanti Township.B and the city departments from Ann Ar-B bor and Ypsilanti when the extent of theBJ blaze was determined. About 55 firefighters manning 10 fl peces of equipment from the fourfl departments were on the scène at onel time. Firemen were pumping 3,000 1 lons oí water a minute for more than two I hours into the raging flames, Kay said. Chief Kay said his department is 1 ing with the state Fire Marshal's office I in the jinvestigation. i'he victims of thé fire, Carrothers and Miss Lesüe, apparently decided to try to escape the flames by way oí the apartment house's hallway instead of leaping from a window as did Carrothers' roommate, Kevin O'Shea. O'Shea had dropped from the window after Carrothers and Miss Nagle awoke him to teil him of the fire. Officers say Carrothers or Miss Nagle apparently tried dashing down the hallway to safety but collapsed and died near a landing. The open door of the apartment sent sheets of flame roaring inta I the unit and killed whichever of the two remained inside, investigators said. Identification of the bodies was difficult because of the fire, firemen said. Mrs. Doris Bayne, 49, of Warsaw, Ind., who was visiting her son, Robert, 29, and his family, was one of three persons seriously hurt when they jumped from the ' ning building. Mrs. Bayne was taken to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital with leg and foot fractures and a back injury. More than 80 persons escaped the fire. Donald Peak, executive director of the Washtenaw chapter of the American Red Cross, said his agency is meeting today with individual families to determine their needs for furniture and other household items. Persons made homeless by the blaze are being temporarily houaed in vacant units of the Woodland Hills complex and many returned to thèir burned-out units today in attempts to salvage some possessions. Sheriff's deputies Thursday night were checking all persons entering the apartment complex to prevent looting