Cause of Shelby Manor Fire Remains Unknown; Repairs Could Take 8 Months or More
Around 90 senior residents lost their homes and many of their belongings when a Nov. 17 fire ripped through their apartment complex in Shelby Township.
With repairs now underway, some of the residents displaced by the Nov. 17 fire at Shelby Manor Senior Community may be able to return to their apartments as early as April, but most will find themselves waiting until September or later.
Approximately 90 senior citizens, many immobile and wheel-chair bound, had to be evacuated and even rescued from their balconies Nov. 17 when a fire broke out in Building B of the independent senior complex on Schoenherr Road, just north of Hall Road.
The fire was contained to four units, but the entire building sustained extensive water and smoke damage, which apartment manager Laurie Hepburn estimates could take upwards of eight months to repair.
While the exact cause and origin of the blaze remains unknown, Acting Fire Chief Fire Chief James Swinkowski said the department’s investigator was able to confirm the fire was accidental.
“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t intentional, such as arson, or related to an overloaded outlet,” Swinkowski said. “Our investigation did conclude that the cause was undetermined, but definitely accidental.”
Swinkowski said any further findings would likely come from the insurance company investigating the claim, although he is not aware of any such report having been filed to date.
In terms of reconstruction, Hepburn said restoration work is scheduled to begin in earnest in the next few weeks as final details, such as cost and design, are approved.
“The building is 80 percent gutted, but some areas will just need to be painted and carpeted,” Hepburn said. “Everything is tentative, but we’re trying to expedite the process as much as we can.”
Residents whose apartments sustained only minor damage – approximately 30 units – could be allowed to return as early as April 1, but Hepburn said the majority of residents will likely have to wait until September or later.
“Everyone I’ve talked to plans on coming back eventually,” Hepburn said, adding that many of the residents have gone to live with family while others have attempted to sign short-term leases elsewhere. “Everybody is very happy living here and we still hear from them on a daily basis. It’s a tremendous amount of work but it will get done and we will get them back.”
Residents whose apartments were not directly affected by the fire were able to move what belongings they could to their temporary homes or into storage, but more than a dozen seniors reportedly lost everything in the blaze. Hepburn estimates that approximately 30 percent of the residents displaced were without renters' insurance.
The Shelby Township Police Department is currently overseeing a collection for these and other seniors in need of financial help.
Donations can be sent to Shelby Township Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge #143, 52530 Van Dyke, Shelby Twp, MI, 48316. Be sure write on the envelope and/or check “Senior Assistance.”