Harrison Township motel fire kills 1; 'flash fire' likely cause

HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) - A fire tore through room three at the Ruth Motel in Harrison Township just after midnight.

The guest in that room was killed according to Harrison Township firefighters.

Investigators with the Macomb County Sheriff's Department say it appears to have been a 'flash fire' -- the 56-year-old victim was apparently smoking and using an oxygen tank and that sparked the blaze. There were several oxygen tanks inside the room.

Bryan Gregory, a motel resident, identified the victim as Bart Phillips, and says he helped Phillips with his cooking and cleaning. Gregory says he also helps run the motel. He says he had just left the room to visit another motel guest when the fire broke out.

"About 15 minutes later, my boss come down banging on the door where I was at and said there was smoke coming out of number 3," Gregory told Action News. "It was terrifying."

Gregory says he tried to get in the room but there was too much smoke. Investigators say the room was fully engulfed when firefighters arrived.

Motel managers say the victim had been staying at the motel for years.

17 of the 20 units were occupied and all of the guests have been sent to another motel for the time being because the electricity has been shut off.

Room three is destroyed and there is smoke and water damage to a handful of other units.

The motel is located on Jefferson Avenue near Shook.