Clare Co. Home Destroyed By Late-Night Fire, Caused By Fryer

“This time of year, I just dread having a fire because everything turns to ice,” says Chris Damvelt, Harrison Community Fire Department fire chief.

A night celebrating the first week of the New Year turned into a night of fire and destruction.

In just hours, two buildings in Clare County were destroyed.

The Harrison Community Fire Department chief says the fire started when a burner heating a turkey fryer was tipped over on a back porch.

The house went up in flames and quickly spread to the garage.

“It got called in as a porch fire,” Damvelt says. “They called back on the radio and said now the garage is on fire.”

A fire from an unlikely source was made more likely by the sheer cold, according to fire crews.

Damvelt says the fire on Poplar Drive was moving fast and a difficult one to fight.

“The structure had a steel roof that was over top of a shingle roof and then it had been added onto here and there. It gets in all of these nooks and crannies,” Damvelt says. “It was hard to find the fire.”

“It was still a little nerve-wracking because there was still a lot of smoke coming up in the air and you couldn’t really tell what was going on,” says Alex Sims, who lives directly behind the garage.

One neighbor heard a bang and came outside to see the orange glow from behind his home.

While another neighbor, Alex Sims’ house was a short distance from the flames.

“That was the most nerve-wracking part is that we have all the woods that we have in the area and just being a yard apart,” Sims says.

The fire chief says the fire started on the back patio while the family was actually cooking out in the conditions.

Once the propane tank went, he says the rest went up quickly.

“He had a turkey cooker but, instead of oil, he had water boiling,” Damvelt says. “He had reached there to grab the tank and kind of shake it to see if he could get a little more propane moving. When he did that, it tipped over the burner.”

The frigid temperatures fought back against the owner and the crews trying to save his house.

“You’re working with water so you’re making ice,” Damvelt says. “It’s bad enough a steel roof. Then you put snow and ice on top of it, makes it very slippery.”

The home was insured.

The chief says it’s a hard lesson — but everyone made it out OK.

“With the cold temperatures, things freeze up and he was having problems with his propane tank freezing up, just like we had problems with our water lines freezing up,” Damvelt says.