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Officials say fire that destroyed Detroit senior apartments started outside building

Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments burned Monday night

DETROIT – Fire officials said a fire that ripped through a senior apartment complex Monday started outside the building.

"This is it. This is all  that I was able to. This is all I have," Karen Morris said.

A fire destroyed Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments in Detroit on Sept. 23, 2019. (WDIV)
A fire destroyed Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments in Detroit on Sept. 23, 2019. (WDIV)

Morris is one of the many who lost her home in the fire at Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments. She called the senior citizen complex on Mack Avenue home for years, but now a charred structure is all that's left.

MORE: Crews rescue seniors from fire that destroyed Detroit apartment complex

Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell said officials don't know the cause yet, but arson investigators and cadaver dogs were at the scene Tuesday.

"It appears the fire started on the outside on the corner by Springle and Mack," Fornell said.

The fire quickly spread through the three-story, 54-unit building.

"Plastic is burning, so it's burning all of this plastic in this building. This was their activity area," Tiffany Dorsey said.

Embers from a fire at Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments in Detroit blow down the street on Sept. 23, 2019. (WDIV)
Embers from a fire at Rev. Ann Johnson Elderly Apartments in Detroit blow down the street on Sept. 23, 2019. (WDIV)

Dorsey said she was walking by when she saw the flames. She knew she had to do something,

"Something just told me run around to the back and help the people get out, because I can't get them from the front, because it's blocked off from the fire," Dorsey said.

Meanwhile, Morris and her neighbors are just trying to pick up the pieces.

"I'm doing the best I can under these circumstances," Morris said.


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