It was one of Michigan’s largest wooden structures and modeled after George Washington’s historic mansion at Mount Vernon.
More than 24 hours after Thursday’s momentous fire that destroyed the historic Oakland Hills County Club clubhouse, firefighters were still pouring water Friday afternoon on “hot spots,” trying to keep the piles of century-old timbers from reigniting.
They’d spent the entire night on the scene at Maple Road just east of Telegraph in the heart of Oakland County’s affluence, officials said Friday. At the same time, local firefighting veterans were looking ahead.
The Bloomfield Township Fire Department was forming a team of inspectors, to include experts from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office and from multiple insurers that are said to have provided coverage for the venerable clubhouse. Bloomfield Township Fire Marshal Peter Vlahos predicted they’d end up conducting “one of the most extensive investigations that I’ve ever been involved with” in the community of more than 42,000 residents.
Yet, already both Vlahos and his boss — Fire Chief John LeRoy — said they believe that the cause of the blaze may never be known. Like most commercial buildings, the clubhouse was equipped with ceiling-mounted sprinklers which, when triggered by smoke, begin spraying sheets of water. Still, the clubhouse sprinklers had been unable to quench the fire, LeRoy said.
The fire’s origin and initial spread “may have been in the walls and between the floors, so the sprinklers couldn’t get at it,” LeRoy said. The initial 911 call for the fire came at 9:17 a.m. Thursday after a cook smelled smoke in the kitchen, although it’s unknown whether the fire started there, LeRoy said.
His dire prediction: “We’ll probably never know what truly happened, the damage is so far advanced.”
The piles of ancient smoldering timbers are so daunting that fire inspectors will be challenged to survey the ruins, Bloomfield Township Fire Marshal Peter Vlahos told the Free Press. Likewise, Vlahos also said he was doubtful that a cause would be pinpointed.
“We’re going to have to use some heavy machinery” to move debris so that inspectors can, literally, get to the bottom of the conflagration’s trail of evidence, Vlahos said.
And when they get there? Clear evidence of the fire’s cause may well have gone up in smoke.
Kelly Jordan contributed. Contact: email@example.com