Fire destroys Filer Township home

MANISTEE — No one was injured when a six-alarm fire roared through a Filer Township home Tuesday evening.

The fire is believed to have been caused by a bolt of lightning that struck a tree about 35 yards behind the home and then literally cut a path beneath the lawn to the house, though a family member said the lightning bold actually struck the home.

Flames shoot several yards into the air at a house fire on Merkey Road Tuesday evening. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

Firefighters from Filer Township, the City of Manistee, East Lake, Stronach Township and Manistee Township battled intense flames into the early-morning hours. The home is owned by Larry Lindeman, said Filer Township Fire Chief Ron Gutowski.

Volunteers with the Red Cross were called to the scene on Merkey Road just south of the city to provide relief and aid to the firefighters. Emergency medical personnel from West Shore Medical Center, Michigan State Police and City of Manistee Police also assisted at the fire. Firefighters from Bear Lake also responded with additional air tanks.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Gutowski said. “The lightning actually struck ground about 35 yards behind the house, traveled along the ground and beneath another tree, and continued on to the house, where it ‘connected’ with the sprinkler system, and then followed that.

“A lady who was in the house at the time said they heard a large booming thunder, and she looked outside just in time to see the grass flying on a line from the tree, to the house.”

Flames shoot several yards into the air at a house fire on Merkey Road Tuesday evening. (Matt Wenzel/News Advocate)

Gutowski said a neighbor, Mike Martin and who is also a firefighter, called 9-1-1 at about 8:15 p.m. and then helped the Lindeman family get out of their house. By the time firefighters arrived just a few minutes later, smoke was already spewing from one corner of the house.

“(The fire) got up through the walls and into the attic pretty quick,” Gutowski said. “We had to cut holes in the roof to get at it. It was really a difficult fire.”

Gutowski said firefighters battled the fire for more than two hours, before bringing it under control. They then conducted a series of inspections on the interior of the house, going from floor to floor and room to room, looking for “hot spots.”

Firefighters even used a thermal imaging device to look for any smoldering or burning areas.

“From everything we could see, we had it out,” Gutowski said.

Firefighters left the scene after 11 p.m., but were just as quickly called back when the fire rekindled and spread quickly throughout the remaining structure.

(David L. Barber/News Advocate)

“It was unbelievable how quickly it took off again, and how fast it spread,” Gutowski said. “All the departments immediately returned and stayed on the scene — fighting the second fire — for several more hours.”

Gutowski said because evidence showed the fire was started by lightning, he does not expect a fire inspector to look over the site.

In between the initial fire and when it rekindled a short time later, firefighters helped to retrieve some of the family’s personal items, including pictures, prescriptions and more.

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Posted by David L. Barber

David L. Barber is the retired editor of the Manistee News Advocate. He contributes columns weekly for the News Advocate. You can contact him at dlbarber1006@gmail.com.

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