HOUGHTON - When the Houghton Housing Commission's Heritage Manor was constructed in 1976, fire suppression sprinklers weren't required by law, but sprinklers are being installed as part of the renovation work being done in the building now.
On Aug. 17, a fire consumed one apartment on the fifth floor of Heritage Manor and caused damage to some extent to the rest of the building. There were no serious injuries from the fire, but all 41 residents had to be evacuated.
Heritage Manor was constructed in part with funds from the federal Housing and Urban Development agency, and its operation is regulated in part by HUD.
According to information sent to The Daily Mining Gazette by Laura Feldman, public affairs representative with the HUD Region V office in Chicago, public housing buildings newly constructed before 1992 weren't required to have fire suppression sprinkler systems.
However, HUD-assisted buildings are required to have either hard-wired or battery-operated smoke detectors, which Sherry Hughes, HHC executive director, said were in Heritage Manor and operating well.
"We have a good alarm system," she said.
According to the information sent by Feldman, for HUD-assisted buildings four stories or taller constructed without sprinkler systems and renovated after 1994, the new work must include retrofitting sprinklers.
"We will be putting sprinklers in," Hughes said.
A larger 6-inch pipe for the sprinkler system has to be installed, also, and Hughes said exactly how much installing the sprinklers will cost hasn't been determined, yet.
"Our engineers are working on that," she said.
Hughes said a Michigan fire marshal examined the apartment where the fire started, and the report on the possible cause of the fire should be completed soon.
Larry Lehman, chief of the Building Division of the Michigan Bureau of Construction Codes in Lansing, said Heritage Manor was not in violation of Michigan law by not having a sprinkler system installed when it was built. However, with the renovation, state law requires a retrofitted sprinkler system.
Although there has been talk around Houghton Heritage Manor will be torn down, Hughes said that's not true and it will be renovated. It's hoped work will be completed in six months.
"The building itself is fine," she said.
The original estimate for completion of the renovation was two to three months, Hughes said, but the damage to the building was greater than first thought. There is damage to the roof and all 40 apartments have water damage.
Also part of the renovation will be the installation of American With Disabilities Act-compliant doors and other items, Hughes said.
"There's a big, long list of things we have to get at," she said.
Hughes said since the fire, the 41 residents have either found housing with friends or relatives, or have been placed in other public housing.
"We are all over the place trying to find housing for six months," she said.
The breakdown of where the residents are is: Five are at Lakeview Manor in Hancock and two more are on the list to move into the building; five are at the Douglass House in Houghton; six are at GardenView Assisted Living and Memory Care in Calumet Township; three are sharing one of the HHC individual family houses; two are renting a cabin in Lake Linden; and 18 are living with family or friends.
Hughes said it was a blow to some of the Heritage Manor residents to learn the estimate of two to three months before they could get back into their apartments was low.
"That is devastating," she said.