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Investigators Continue Search For Residents Missing After Massive Fire

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All that remains of an apartment building on Detroit's west side after a fire. (Credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ Newsradio 950)

All that remains of an apartment building on Detroit’s west side after a fire. (Credit: Jon Hewett/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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DETROIT (WWJ) - Investigators are continuing their search for at least six people who are still unaccounted for following a massive apartment fire on Detroit’s west side.

Crews were back in action early Thursday morning at the Jason Manor apartment complex on Schoolcraft Road, near Outer Drive and I-96, which was destroyed a day earlier by a quick-spreading fire.

Workers with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department told WWJ’s Mike Campbell they were called to the scene because the building’s basement apartments are “completely flooded.” They have to pump the water out before investigators can go in and start searching for the missing residents.

(Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

(Credit: Bill Szumanski/WWJ Newsradio 950)

At least 80 firefighters and 20 trucks responded to the fire. Four people were taken to hospitals and several others were treated for minor injuries at the scene. Crews rescued 25 people who were trapped inside their apartments, while other residents, some nearly naked, frantically jumped from second- and third-floor windows to escape the flames.

Detroit Fire Arson Chief Charles Simms said nearly all of the building’s 42 units were occupied.

No deaths have been reported. Still, the fire department said Thursday that some residents had not been located. At least six people are still unaccounted for.

A cause of the fire remains under investigation and arson is suspected.

Investigators are also trying to figure out if the fire is connected to an alleged sexual assault that occurred at the apartment complex overnight.

Deputy Police Chief Rodney Johnson said officers were called to the complex around 3:10 a.m. Wednesday after a 19-year-old woman reported being raped. The call came in as a loud party was talking place in one of the units.

“Officers spoke with a young woman and then began their investigation. There’s no indication that she knew her attacker and it’s our understanding that she did not live there, she was visiting other people,” he said.

Johnson said the woman was taken to the hospital for treatment and observation.

Fire Commissioner Jonathon Jackson said the alleged assault might have something to do with the fire, which occurred less than two hours after police initially responded to the complex.

“There was a police incident here earlier, and it looks like there may be some connection between the fire and that incident,” Jackson said. “A connection is quite possible.”

The American Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter at West Outer Drive United Methodist Church, just a few blocks away from the scene. Several agencies are also helping survivors who were displaced by the fire.

Bill Brazier, with the Society of St. Vincent DePaul, said it’s times like these when the community really comes together to help others in need.

“They have nothing. Typically in these situation, and especially in this area, they wouldn’t even have any renter’s insurance, so they’ve got nothing. They have to start fresh, so we’re going to get them clothing vouchers right away and then provide the long-term assistance that they’re going to need,” he said.

MORE: Arson Suspected In Massive Detroit Apartment Blaze That Left 4 Hospitalized, Others Still Missing

(Credit: Charlie Langton/WWJ Newsradio 950)

(Credit: Charlie Langton/WWJ Newsradio 950)

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