Police: Man arrested after Detroit arson fire that killed 5

Posted at 8:48 PM, Mar 09, 2017

DETROIT (AP) — Police investigating an arson fire said Thursday they arrested a 55-year-old-man who lived in a Detroit apartment building where a blaze fanned by high winds killed five people and injured four.

Officer Jennifer Moreno said the fire Wednesday may have followed an argument, but police aren’t sure. No charges have been filed.

Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell told the Associated Press that investigators have determined the fire was arson. Fornell said wind gusts up to 60 mph at the two-story, brick building made it difficult for fire crews.

“It was like facing a blowtorch,” Fornell said. “There was a lot of fire in the back, but the fire was being pushed into the building by the wind.”

The Detroit Free Press reports Fornell said authorities believe the man “may have had an argument with the landlord.”

A man who wasn’t breathing was pulled from the building by firefighters and was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Fornell said. Four bodies later were found on the second floor of the building, he said.

No identifications have been made due to the condition of the bodies, said Jim Martinez, a spokesman for the county medical examiner. Dental records might be needed.

The two-story brick building held eight apartments, most occupied by one or two male adults being treated for substance abuse or mental health issues, resident Marcelleus Thomas told The Detroit News.

“Our families didn’t want us. This was the last place for us to go,” said Thomas, 54, who returned from an appointment to find his home ablaze.

Two of the injured suffered smoke inhalation and were treated and released, Fornell said. He said one person was in critical condition with burns and smoke inhalation and another was in serious condition with a cut hand.