UPDATE: No human factor reported in Houghton apartment explosion, fire
HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) - UPDATE: There was no malicious intent or human factor found during the investigation of the Houghton apartment fire on Sunday, March 13.
The Houghton Volunteer Fire Department issued a statement on Thursday updating the public on the explosion, fire that took place in downtown Houghton.
“At this time the investigation has determined that there is no “Human Factor” or malicious intent involved in starting the fire. The ignition source is undetermined and the cause of the fire is still under investigation,” the department said in a statement.
The Houghton Fire Department would like to thank all of the bystanders and Michigan Tech students who helped pull hose. They would also like to thank Hurontown Fire & Rescue, Hancock Fire and Stanton Township RIT team for their mutual aid assistance along with Houghton PD, MTU Public Safety and Houghton County Sherriff Department. They would also like to thank SEMCO for their rapid assistance and call for extra manpower to ensure the safety of the residents and first responders.
*Update 3/13/22 10 a.m. SEMCO continues working to restore natural gas to the affected area. Gas has been reestablished to some customers, but not all.
“We will be checking each individual area to make sure it’s safe to reestablish services in those areas... One of the challenges we’ve had is the deep frost has been really challenging for our crews to dig through, and to get to our facilities underground. When we respond to an area after a fire, we check an area to see if there’s any natural gas in the surrounding area. We did find natural gas levels nearby and the frost doesn’t allow that natural gas to dissipate... some of the equipment you can hear running behind me are just tools that are helping move that natural gas from under the frost out into the atmosphere and let it vent out. And that process just takes time.” says SEMCO spokesperson Tim Lubbers.
Lubbers adds that you should call 1-888-427-1427 if you smell natural gas.
ORIGINAL STORY 3/13/22:
Only minor injuries were reported, but eight people are without a home, after a large explosion and fire at a downtown Houghton apartment building early Sunday morning.
According to the Houghton Police Department, the fire was reported around 1:30 a.m. in the apartment building at 908 College Ave. The building is next to the Keweenaw Chamber of Commerce office. The cause of the explosion and fire is under investigation, police say.
The apartment building was leveled. Police say the six people home at the time got out safely. Two people were taken to UP Health System-portage for minor injuries.
The Salvation Army says eight people lived there and lost everything. Most ran outside without even shoes or socks. The Salvation Army is accepting contributions through its Facebook page.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for Albert and Debbie Aguilar, who lived in the now-destroyed building.
Michigan Tech says it is ensuring all students involved get the support they need. Students in need of housing are having it provided by the university.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for another victim and MTU student.
Surrounding homes were evacuated for safety, and gas lines were shut off until further investigations are complete at the area is determined to be safe. The chamber building and the six tenants in its upstairs apartments were evacuated because of concerns about gas and smoke. The chamber will be closed Monday.
SEMCO Energy says it has shut down a portion of its natural gas system downtown Houghton to conduct a survey of the area following the fire. SEMCO expects the natural gas outage to affect approximately 20 homes and businesses. SEMCO says its crews will work through the night to reestablish service to affected customers.
Michigan Tech University students impacted by the outage can contact Michigan Tech Public Safety at 906-487-2216 for housing arrangements. Non-students needing help can contact the Houghton Police Department at 906-482-2121.
The City of Houghton Fire Department was assisted by surrounding fire departments, MTU Public Safety and the Hancock Police Department. Pigs-N-heat was also available at the scene to help with emergency needs as well as the Salvation Army and the American Red Cross who will continue with needed assistance, police say.
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