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Five University of Michigan students displaced by fire that started on outdoor couch, officials say
Updated On: May 19, 2008

Five University of Michigan students displaced by fire that started on outdoor couch, officials say

Posted by Art Aisner | The Ann Arbor News April 17, 2008 07:56AM

Categories: Breaking News

Five University of Michigan students were displaced from their off-campus home Wednesday after a fire spread from an unattended hookah pipe left on a couch on the porch, authorities said.

Firefighters work at the scene of a house ffire on Benjamin Street in Ann Arbor Wednesday.

Four of the students were inside the home in the 400 block of Benjamin Street when neighbors frantically warned them about smoke on the front porch just after 7 p.m., Ann Arbor Fire Lt. Craig Ferris said.


The residents told firefighters they tried to throw the burning couch over the porch railing, but the fire had already spread.

"They got it to the railing, but it was far too hot for them to be there at that time," Ferris said.

No one was injured.

Ferris said embers from a hookah pipe the residents were smoking ignited the couch. A hookah pipe is a single or multi-stemmed water-pipe device for smoking tobacco.

Smoke and flames engulfed the porch and began extending into the main room on the first floor when firefighters arrived, Ferris said.

Fifteen firefighters from around the city battled the blaze for about 20 minutes and were able to stop it from extending to the second floor. No damage estimates were available this morning, but there was heavy smoke damage throughout the house and significant damage to the structure, officials said.

A few minutes after arriving at the scene, three firefighters were sent to another fire reported at the U-M C.S. Mott Children's and Women's Hospital at 1505 Simpson Road, Ferris said.

Contact reporter Art Aisner at
or 734-994-6823.

They extinguished a small fire under some wooden pallets that was discovered by a U-M police officer and then returned to Benjamin Street. A welding torch sparked that fire, Ferris said.

A disaster team from the Washtenaw County chapter of the American Red Cross responded to the Benjamin Street home, and a representative from the U-M Dean of Student Affairs Office also was there, Ferris said.

The fire was the second couch fire to damage a home in Ann Arbor since March 28. In 2004, the Ann Arbor City Council considered banning couches on porches for safety reasons, but the effort caused student outcry and was eventually shelved.

Ann Arbor Firefighters Local 693
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