BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. - There are conflicting reports about whether there were working smoke detectors inside apartments where a deadly fire broke out in Berrien Springs. Wednesday investigators found two smoke detectors, one with a battery, inside one of the four apartments at the building on Valley View Drive.
No detectors have been found in the apartment where life was lost. According to Berrien Springs/Oronoko Township Fire Chief Bruce Stover, fire fighters did not hear smoke detectors going off when they showed up at the scene Tuesday morning.
The landlord of the apartments, 30-year-old Brandon Rapp, said the doubts are false. “It does personally upset me it's not true," he said outside the apartments Wednesday after being questioned by police. “All the apartments had smoke detectors,” he said.
At least one of the tenants at the apartment building disagrees with Rapp. “Smoke just rolled in the kitchen area,” said Jason Hettinger. Hettinger was sleeping below the upstairs apartment where Robert and Jessica Haas were trapped by flames and jumped from a second story window to escape. Their 3-year-old daughter, Rockelle Haas, died in the flames. “I heard no smoke detectors,” said Hettinger.
Rapp says he checked the smoke detectors in the Haas’ apartment before they moved in a few months ago. Investigators had their doubts about smoke detectors at the fire Tuesday. "It’s unusual for a fire to get that large if a house has smoke detectors," said Stover.
Even if there were no smoke detectors in the entire building no laws would have been broken. Oronoko Township, where the building lies, does not have an ordinance requiring all structures to have smoke detectors. Michigan law only requires new construction to have smoke detectors. Buildings built before 1972 are not required.