Fire breaks out in Michigan complex

April 9, 2008 10:53:21 AM PDT
Firefighters on ladders helped senior citizens escape from a fire that broke out at a three-story apartment complex Wednesday morning, and some residents suffered smoke inhalation and chest pains. All 200 residents from two connected buildings were evacuated by early afternoon, police and fire officials said.

Video footage showed firefighters carrying people down ladders from balconies of the Lillian & Samuel Hechtman Jewish Apartments in West Bloomfield Township, about 20 miles northwest of Detroit.

Some people were seen waiting for help on balconies as smoke poured from the sprawling building. Firefighters were walking on the roof, creating vents as they worked to extinguish the blaze. Smoke turned from gray to black, and flames were visible near the top of the building.

Assistant Fire Chief Ray Riggs said the fire is believed to have started in a third-floor boiler room. He said one section of the building was extensively damaged. Some people reported suffering from smoke inhalation and chest pains, he said.

The independent-living complex is part of the nonprofit Jewish Apartments and Services, which serves about 900 elderly residents and their families, according to its Web site.

The residents do not require around-the-clock assistance, and two-thirds drive their own cars, said Marsha Goldsmith Kamin, executive director of Jewish Apartments and Services.

The residents were taken to another apartment building on the 150-acre campus of agencies affiliated with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, Kamin said.

Sue Lazar, an office manager at the affiliated Jewish Hospice and Chaplaincy Network, says all available employees were called to the scene to help residents.