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'Careless Smoking' Cause in Neff House Fire

Fire investigators from the Grosse Pointes determined the cause of the recent blaze that destroyed at least the third floor of a Neff Road home was due to "careless smoking."

A has been determined to be accidental and was caused by "careless smoking," Director of Public Safety Stephen Poloni said.

The three-story duplex at 520 Neff Road sustained heavy damage. The third floor was destroyed by the fire and much of the roof on one side is gone. The first and second floors sustained heavy water damage and some smoke damage, Poloni said.

Resident Frank Rice woke to the smell of smoke shortly after 2 a.m. Jan. 18. He began getting his family, including his 14-year-old daughter and 85-year-old mother, and the resident from the lower unit out of the duplex.

The three-alarm fire had crews from the City, the Farms and the Park fighting the blaze, which happened on one of the coldest nights the area has experienced this winter, which has been drastically warmer than typical Michigan winters.

None of the residents nor any of the firefighters were injured during the blaze, although Poloni said a few firefighters fell while on scene because of the icy conditions. The water used to fight the fire quickly froze after running to the ground and the tree in the front yard was heavily coated in ice as a result.

Members of the City's Department of Public Works also came to the scene to help spread salt to clear the icy conditions, Poloni said.

Investigators from the Harper Woods-Grosse Pointe fire investigation unit spent two days determining the cause of the fire, Poloni said. Ultimately, the discovered the fire started as the result of a "carelss smoking" on the third floor, he said.

It is classified as an accidental fire and while Poloni did not have an exact damage estimate, he said it's easily a few hundred thousand dollars worth.

All of the residents have found other places to stay, Poloni said. They will be able to save some of their possessions, but not all, he said. Some of their possessions have already been removed from the house, he said.

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