DETROIT (WWJ) – A fire that ripped through a west side Detroit apartment building, forcing some adults and children to leap from second- and third-story windows, has officially been ruled an arson.
Detroit Fire Arson Chief Charles Simms said Wednesday’s devastating fire at the Jason Manor apartment complex on Schoolcraft Road, near Outer Drive and I-96, was absolutely started on purpose. An accelerant was reportedly found in the rubble.
“Without going into details, we deemed it an arson fire,” Simms said live on WWJ Newsradio 950 Thursday morning. “But because so many other cases may be connected to this fire, we won’t go into details.”
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 windows to escape the flames. Nearly all of the building’s 42 units were occupied.
No deaths have been reported, but Simms said a few residents are still unaccounted for.
“Our focal point now, mainly, is to make sure there are no bodies left in the dwelling,” he said. “We’re still waiting on the water line to be plugged and we still have some excavation equipment coming in to dig that basement out to check for any bodies. But at this point, we have no indication that we’ll find anybody.”
Simms said investigators will be on the scene for the remainder of the day Thursday and probably all day Friday to comb through the wreckage for clues.
“At this point, we’re gathering more evidence and information. So, we’re hoping to have closure to this whole case very shortly,” he said. “We’re working closely with different units in the Detroit Police Department to connect other crimes to this fire.”
One of those crimes includes an alleged sexual assault that occurred at the apartment complex just a few hours before the fire was set.
Police 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 basement units. Investigators said there’s no indication that the woman, who does not live at the complex, knew her attacker. Reports say she was assaulted by multiple men.
Simms said officers have been in contact with the woman, but he declined to elaborate.
“Someone from my unit spoke to her, along with DPD, but at this point I’d rather not give details on that,” he said.
St. Vincent de Paul will begin assisting Jason Complex fire victims Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at St. Christine’s Christian Services building, located at 15317 Dacosta Street, Detroit, MI 48223.
St. Vincent de Paul volunteers will be working with victims in the old white convent on the grounds of St. Christine’s, which states CHRISTAIN SERVICES on the outside of the building.
An investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is urged to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.