Report: Cause of large Kzoo fire undetermined

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD)  — The cause of a fire that destroyed several homes in Kalamazoo’s Northside neighborhood in June may never be known. 

News 8 obtained the incident report Wednesday morning via a Freedom of Information Act request. 

In that report, Kalamazoo Fire Marshal Scott Brooks wrote in that the house was “completely consumed and was in the final stages of the building falling down” when he arrived on the scene.

He used bodycam footage and other information, including drone photos, to determine the fire started in the rear staircase of the home at 912 W. North St. 

Drone photos of a fire that destroyed several Kalamazoo homes in June. (Courtesy of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety)
Drone photos of a fire that destroyed several Kalamazoo homes in June. (Courtesy of the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety)

The official cause of the fire is listed as “undetermined with human involvement.” That’s due to the fact there was no electric, gas or any other utilities connected to the home. 

The investigation showed that witnesses saw several people in the area the night of the fire despite the city-wide curfew that had gone in effect at 7 p.m. that evening. 

A woman who lived in the area told police that she saw two men approaching the house about 30 minutes before she and her husband noticed the fire. She told officers she heard the men saying they were “going to set a fire.”

Other witnesses told police they saw a white sedan parked near the fire scene. One witness who lives nearby told officers the sedan was parked in the nearby Diapers Unlimited parking lot facing the fire scene and laughing. The only description she could give officers was they were three black men. 

A different witness corroborated the white sedan story and also said he saw four “motorbikes” in the area. The witness said he saw the motorbikes in the area being followed by a white sedan. He told officers he saw all the bikes and the sedan pull into the Diapers Unlimited parking lot. 

The witness said about seconds after seeing the bikes drive by on Woodward Avenue, he heard an explosion and immediately saw flames. 

He was unable to identify any of the vehicle’s occupants other than telling officers they were black because many were wearing either helmets or masks. 

Another witness at this same address told officers these vehicles were the only activity in the area. She told officers the sedan had an out of state license plate, possibly New York, but had no other information on the vehicle or the occupants. 

Officers contacted Diapers Unlimited based on these two witness statements but were told the business does not have exterior surveillance cameras. 

The fire came after two days of unrest in downtown Kalamazoo

A curfew was put in place beginning at 7 p.m. on June 2. Officers used tear gas to disperse crowds who had gathered downtown and refused to go home once the curfew was in place. 

The incident report makes no mention of any connection of this fire to any of the groups or individuals who were protesting police brutality in the wake of George Floyd’s death in late May. 

Fire investigators were also called to a fire on Paterson Street while still actively investigating the scene on North Street. There was also no mention of any connection between those two fires.