Nortel Lanes bowling alley burns in Monroe: 'Very difficult fire to investigate'

Iconic bowling alley destroyed by fire; no injuries reported

A fire burned the Nortel Lanes bowling alley in Monroe on Dec. 5, 2018. (Photo credit: Monroe County Reporters RyanMink/ShaneNeckel)

MONROE, Mich. – Investigators with the Monroe Fire Department are working to figure out what caused a bowling alley on Telegraph Road to go up in flames early Wednesday morning

Nortel Lanes was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived at the building about 2:30 a.m. Firefighters from Monroe Township, Frenchtown Township and Berlin Township were called in to assist with the battle.

Fire officials say the age and roof design of the building prohibited firefighters from entering the property to extinguish the fire internally.

"The roof design consisted of bowstring construction, utilized for structures that had large, open spaces with no supporting columns in the middle. Unfortunately, the design is such that it collapses quickly when under stress from heat -- not only collapsing downward, but can also force the load-bearing walls to collapse outward. For the safety of our personnel, our strategy was to go into defensive mode, which translates to no interior attacks," said Monroe Fire Chief Robert Wight. 

There was no one inside the building at the time of the fire and no injuries have been reported. 

Firefighters were able to get the fire under control by 8 a.m. Wednesday. Fire officials said there was not a sprinkler system installed in the bowling alley. 

Wight's department called the building a total loss. The cause of the fire remains unknown for now, and it may take a while to figure out. 

"This is going to be a very difficult fire to investigate. Because of the extreme conditions and extent of the fire, it will be very difficult to determine a cause," said Wight. 

Telegraph Road was temporarily closed Wednesday morning during the fire but was reopened to traffic about 7:20 a.m. 

"A sincere thank you to all our neighboring first responders and support personnel who arrived to assist us with this incident. We value your partnership and support," said Wight. 

Nortel Lanes opened in Monroe in 1961. The alley had about 70 lanes. 

Here is Local 4's video report from the scene on Wednesday morning: