Neighbors: Fire started when man rubs alcohol on self for bed bugs

An apartment fire has left some residents looking for a place to stay.

- A Detroit man trying to protect himself against bed bugs may have accidently set himself and his apartment building on fire Sunday.

He is in the hospital and some of his neighbors are in desperate need of help in the eight-story St. Antoine Gardens high rise fire along the I-75 service drive in downtown Detroit.

The Detroit apartment they lived in has been declared uninhabitable by a city housing inspector. Detroit wants those residents to be out during repairs, The 10 apartments will be vacated Friday.

After lighting the cigarette the man burned his arm and ignited the blaze.  He was rushed to the hospital.

Neighbors say the 30-year-old resident spread alcohol on his body to protect against bed bugs. He then lit a cigarette is recovering in the hospital with moderate burns. He is expected to survive.

"This guy  from what we understand, sprayed herself and he's a smoker," said Artis Ealy. "I think he was wet somewhere on his body and (poof)."

FOX 2: "What did he spray himself with?"

"Alcohol," Ealy said.

Detroit Fire investigators reported the man suffered moderate burns due to an "unintentional incident contributing to his injury."

The fire quickly spread and there was significant smoke and water damage. Cabinets ripped from the walls and dry wall removed in an effort to get at the wet flooded mess. There is power and heat to the building but some residents have been instructed not to turn on lights because water flowed down from the 8th floor through ceilings and walls with electrical wiring.

"I just want to see if I can get some help," said resident Big John. "This is not livable here. It's dangerous."

Many residents say John was the guy who knocked on doors and helped several including the elderly to escape. Detroit firefighters are also credited with saving lives by getting people out of the thick, poisonous smoke at 5 a.m. Sunday.

"I smelled the smoke, ran up to the eighth floor and saw the smoke," John said. "And I ran back downstairs got my clothes, and started banging on people's doors and let them know it was fire."

FOX 2 went inside to speak with management, but when after arriving at the office door,  a woman looked out, then locked the door and turned off the light. 

St. Antoine Gardens is a federal funded Section 8 HUD housing. The city of Detroit launched an immediate investigation to determine if the building is unsafe or unhealthy.

"We are taking this seriously," said Alexis Wiley, Mayor Mike Duggan's chief of staff. "We are taking action. We've already reached out to the owner of the building, we are trying to get in touch with the management company. Bottom line, those people can't stay in that situation very long.

"We want to make sure they are connected with housing services and that they can find a safe place to be. Because this is completely unacceptable.

Rather than leave at night the tenants will be relocated tomorrow, they must be gone while repairs are made. It's estimated it may take at least 5 days before repairs are complete.

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