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Historic Leland apartment fire in Downtown Detroit kills 1

Man smoking in bed may have caused fire at Downtown apartments

DETROIT – A fire on the 10th floor of Detroit's Leland Hotel killed a 53-year-old man Thursday morning.

ORIGINAL STORY: Man killed in fire at the Leland apartments in Downtown Detroit

There are both apartments and hotel rooms inside the Leland,  so neighbors don't always know everyone, but they know there's a loss.

"I'm sorry for their loss," a tenant said. "I'm sorry for his family."

The fire started around 2 a.m. on the 10th floor. The fire appears to be accidental, said investigators from the Detroit Fire Department. The victim possibly was smoking in bed.

The ninth, 10th and 11th floors were all evacuated due to water damage. Only eight residents had to evacuate from the building. They have been let back inside. No other injuries were reported. 

"Very dangerous situation. When you're smoking, you want to avoid smoking in bed because when you fall asleep the cigarette just falls out of your hand, into the sheets and mattress. It doesn't immediately burst into flames. It can smolder up to five hours before bursting into flames," said fire Capt. Chris Dixon. "You can imagine what kind of deep sleep you would be in, REM sleep"

The fire didn't spread outside of the room, but fighting it was a struggle. Detroit firefighters had issues putting the fire out because the water systems inside the building weren't working properly, four months after an inspection found them in violation.

The Leland has a gravity-fed sprinkler system with two 10,000-gallon water tanks positioned on the roof, allowing water to flow down to the floors below. That didn't happen.

Plan B was to attach to the pipes outside and pump water in, which just flooded the basement

Detroit fire crews had fighters had to lower a rope out a 10th-floor window and pulled a fire hose back up to fire.

Officials from the Detroit Fire Department, who wrote the violations in March, said the failed fire suppression system didn't change the outcome and the victim would have died either way.

Local 4 reached out to the Leland's manager regarding the violations and have not heard anything back.

Built in 1927, the Leland Hotel was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 20, 2005.