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Cause of Knob Hill Apartments fire remains undetermined following investigation

Image of the fire being extinguished at Knob Hill Apartments in Okemos, Michigan.
Meridian Township
More than 30 units were burned down during the fire at Knob Hill Apartments in Okemos.

The Meridian Township Fire Department has completed its investigation into a fire that occurred at an Okemos apartment complex last December. The cause of the Knob Hill Apartments fire has not been determined.

The Dec. 21 fire killed one man and displaced dozens of residents. The complex’s two structures at 2300 Knob Hill Drive and 2314 Knob Hill have both been deemed a total loss.

Meridian Township Fire Marshal Tavis Millerov said the department knows the incident started from a couch fire but couldn't identify a "competent ignition source" to find out why the fire started.

“Once we figure out the origin, then we go through and find out, 'okay, we know the fire started here, what is here that can explain why this fire started?' And that’s the part that ends up coming up undetermined,” he said.

Millerov said the complex was built in the 1970s and wasn’t required to have a sprinkler or fire alarm system installed.

He said single station smoke alarms, that were not interconnected, did go off in both buildings during the incident.

 “Albeit, it’s not the type of system that everybody thought was in place, there were safety measures there,” he said.

Millerov said the fire was fast moving. He said the building’s dated safety system and design contributed to the spread of the fire as well as human interactions during the incident.

“Certain doors were either left open or propped by others in an effort to mitigate the smoke and perhaps enhance or aid those in evacuating and by leaving those doors open we believe it contributed to the fire spread,” he said.

Millerov said there’s no suspicion of foul play. Though the investigation has been completed, the department is still accepting information related to the incident.

Tips can be sent to the Meridian Township Fire Department at: (517) 853-4700, and the Meridian Township Police Department at (517) 853-4800. The department is also accepting submissions or using the private message option on their social media accounts.

Melorie Begay is the local producer and host of Morning Edition.
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