Earlier in the day on February 17, maintenance workers were using a propane torch as part of a water-proofing method along one of the clubhouse walls, all part of a renovation to the club’s patio area. Thanks to surveillance footage found on a server in the club’s basement, investigators have pinpointed the fire in that wall as the suspected primary source of the fire. Footage showed workers attempting to put out a fire with a garden hose that day prior to the clubhouse being engulfed.
All of this was announced by Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard Thursday in an update on the investigation, which is still ongoing and may take up to a year.
The construction of the Oakland Hills clubhouse allowed for the wall fire to extend up into the attic in a way that, Bouchard said, “is almost like a chimney.” After firefighters arrived on scene, video shows, they broke into the wall and were met with increased flames and smoke.
“The video appears they attempted to — they had a small fire and they attempted to put it out,” said fire chief John LeRoy. “And moving forward, it’s unclear — I don’t know the minutes of time in between when they first applied water and when they realized they had a really big problem. We don’t have that chronological breakdown.”
The clubhouse was built in 1921, and will now be rebuilt in the coming months and years. Sheriff Bouchard stated the club had assessed $80 million in damages, and that they believed there was no criminal intent based on their findings thus far.
You can watch the entirety of Sheriff Bouchard’s address here. Below is footage of the fire from February 17.