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Apartment fires were preventable

Firefighters Shaun Fitzpatrick and Ron Bray work on a firehose. (click for larger version)
March 09, 2011 - Last week's apartment fire on Washington Street fire was caused by human error, said Independence Township Fire Chief Steve Ronk. That's typical for fires he's seen, Ronk said.

"None of it's been building problems, just the people who live in the building left something unintended or whatever," he said.

On March 1, firefighters were dispatched to the Clarkston Corner Apartment on W. Washington Street. Ronk said no one was living in the apartment where the fire occurred.

"We had transported a guy a week or so ago to the hospital, an elderly gentleman and the family was moving his belonging out," he said.

The apartment had a water leak on the outside wall that damaged drywall and some electrical outlets. While fixing that, maintenance staff moved the stove and refrigerator for cleaning.

"When they slid the stove out, I'm pretty sure they bumped one of the burners on top," Ronk said. "When they got ready to leave, they set a whole bag of tools on top of the stove."

The main damage was mostly due to smoke; however, the fire got into the kitchen cabinets.

Ronk noted the apartment and one above it had no smoke detectors. Two others had detectors but no batteries.

"We went through the whole place before we left and checked out all the detectors and made sure they had batteries and installed detectors in apartments that didn't," he said. "I kind of got on management about making sure that's a done deal. Had this fire happened at night, it could have been a different story."

Ronk said people should learn the importance of not only having smoke detectors and also fresh batteries in them, and making sure appliances are not left on.

"We've had kitchen fires where they just leave the pan on the stove and it does the same thing," he said. "You don't put things on top of the stove that don't belong there."

Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.
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