Blaze that leveled century-old barn may be arson

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 3:01 pm on Thursday, November 24, 2011

Ayla and Robert Noah walk through the charred remains of their barn just west of Lakeview. (Daily News/Elisabeth Waldon )

LAKEVIEW — A century-old barn just west of Lakeview burned to the ground Monday night.
The owners believe arson is to blame.
Lakeview and Maple Valley Township firefighters responded to a fire behind the home of Robert and Ayla Noah at 9648 N. Satterlee Road just north of M-46 at about 8:45 p.m.
Lakeview Fire Chief Patrick Q. Carr, who lives about a mile and a half from the scene, said the barn was fully involved before the call went out.
“I looked out the front window when I heard my pager go off and I could see it going already,” he said.
The barn’s roof and walls were beginning to cave in when the first firefighters arrived on the scene. Some hot embers landed on a van parked nearby and the Noahs’ house, causing some small fires.
“We got that all put out pretty easily,” Carr said.
Troopers from the Michigan State Police (MSP) Lakeview Post are investigating the fire as a possible arson due to comments made by Robert and Ayla Noah. The young couple said an acquaintance owes them money, refuses to pay and has threatened them.
Carr is listing the cause of the fire as unknown due to the extensive damage to the barn.
“From our perspective there wasn’t anything to tell,” he said. “It could have been set, but I didn’t see anything that said it was set. I’m leaving that up to MSP if they figure out anything with that.”
Carr said the barn was not hooked up to electricity and an extension cord running a light was unplugged at the house when the fire sparked. The barn didn’t have a heat source, either.
Carr said the Noahs had been inside working on a loft 45 minutes before they reported the blaze. He believes they could have made a spark or ember that smoldered for a while before the barn became engulfed in flames.
Ayla Noah said she was putting her two children, ages 2 and 6 months old, to bed when she saw lights flickering outside through the windows.
“I ran outside and it was fully engulfed in flames,” she said.
She brought the children to a neighbor’s home, where they remain while the Noahs work on cleaning up the mess left behind.
The barn and the house were not insured. Carr said a damage estimate is difficult to pinpoint, but there was no expensive equipment inside the barn.
However, Robert and Ayla Noah said they lost numerous valuables, including photographs of their wedding and children, antique family heirlooms and toys they had purchased for their children.
“We were trying to plan ahead because you never know what’s going to happen in life,” Robert Noah said. “Now it’s all gone.”
The young couple purchased the foreclosed century-old house and barn a few years ago and have been working to restore the home to its original condition. They say they kept everything stored in the barn.
“It hurts,” said Ayla Noah tearfully. “It makes me not feel safe in this town anymore.”
Firefighters from Maple Valley and Lakeview responded to a vehicle fire around 10:15 p.m. on Backus Road near North County Line Road in the middle of the barn fire.
The last firefighters left the barn fire around 1 a.m.
Anyone wishing to help the Noah family can call their friend, James Palmer of Lakeview, at (989) 352-5419.

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