GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Investigators say a deadly Saturday morning fire at an adult foster care home in Grand Rapids was caused by a smoker.
Authorities said discarded smoking materials in a designated smoking area caught a porch chairon fire at the home on Widdicomb Avenue NW, north of 11th Street. Grand Rapids fire investigators say either the smoldering butt dropped onto the chair or a strong wind blew the smoking material onto the chair and fanned the fire.
The fire took the lives of 69-year-old Daniel Foster and 19-year-old Michael Kolenbrander, who family members said had escaped, but went back in to try to save Foster. Both men were found on the second floor of the home. The medical examiner determined they both suffocated from the smoke.
Investigators say high winds, possible delays in notifying firefighters and possible delays in the smoke alarms activating contributed to the severity of the fire.
According to state records from June, the home met all fire safety requirements. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs says it has launched an investigation.
It’s also unclear who the smoking materials belonged to. According to updated numbers from the fire department, 13 people were inside the home at the time of the fire, including adults with needs, the owner’s family and several construction workers who crashed there after a late night job in Grandville.
The American Red Cross is helping provide housing for six people who were in the home. The rest are staying with family or friends.
The Grand Rapids Fire Department encourages homeowners without working smoke alarms to contact the city for free smoke alarms, which the fire department installs as part of its Residential Safety Assessment Program. Appointments can be scheduled by calling the city's 311 line at 616.456.3000. Renters are encouraged to contact their landlord or management if smoke alarms aren't working; the city requires all rental units to have working smoke alarms.