Police: torch sparked apartment fire near GVSU

Posted at 7:01 PM, Jan 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-17 19:02:16-05

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Firefighters put out a fire at an apartment complex Thursday evening near Grand Valley State University’s campus that investigators believe was started by a torch.

The fire broke out around 6:22 p.m. in an apartment at Copper Beech Townhomes, 10295 48th Avenue. That’s a housing facility for students. The fire was largely put out by 7:20 p.m.

Firefighters arrived on the scene of the three-story building at 6:31 pm. Allendale Fire Department Lieutenant Scott Harkes told FOX 17 at the scene, “Upon arrival, we had fire coming out of the windows on the third floor, in the middle of the building.”

“We were able to quickly knock the fire down.”

Lieutenant Harkes said residents were alerted by smoke detectors. “They tried to extinguish it themselves. Once they realized it was too big, they got out and started alerting the tenants in the building next door.”

The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office says in a news release a preliminary investigation revealed that the apartment tenant was using a butane torch that “accidentally ignited contents of the upper-floor bedroom”.

“One of the tenants said he was lighting candles with a small propane torch,” said Lieutenant Harkes. “He put the torch on his bed. He thought it was all the way off.”  Investigators think the fire was accidental.

It was contained to the single apartment, and no adjoining apartments were damaged. Firefighters said everyone would likely be allowed to return to their townhomes Thursday night, other than the unit where the fire occurred.

The sheriff’s office says the tenant sustained some minor injuries. No one else was hurt. The Sheriff’s Department and Allendale Fire Department are still investigating.