Squatters in vacant units may be to blame for Detroit apartment fire

Fire started in 3 spots in building

DETROIT – Squatters who were ordered to leave vacant units may be to blame for a fire Wednesday at a Detroit apartment complex.

MORE: 2-alarm fire damages apartment building on Detroit's east side

"When we came here, the building was in horrible disrepair," said Claudia Sanford, with the United Community Housing Coalition. "The doors were not secured or locked ... so having a fire when you don't have a building secured is not surprising ... where people are just coming in and moving into the property because units are open and empty."

When the building owner cooperated with police in an effort to remove people squatting in vacant units Wednesday morning, someone set the series of fires, officials believe.

According to authorities, the fire started in three different spots in the building.

Police said the building, located in the 5000 block of Lakewood Street, had a wing with several vacant units.

No major injuries were reported. Everyone involved is expected to be OK, including several pets.

"It got dark really fast with the smoke," Tim Robertson said. "I couldn't breathe. I have asthma. I had to get my baby out of there."

The American Red Cross is helping figure out what units are safe for residents to return to.

The investigation is ongoing.

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