Heater likely caused Eureka Township fire

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 11:05 am on Friday, September 14, 2012

Greenville Department of Public Safety Officer Mark Cole climbed to the top of what is left of the Wheelers’ home Thursday as Cole investigates the fire scene. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

EUREKA TOWNSHIP — Members of the Greenville Department of Public Safety spent Thursday investigating the remnants of fire at 10325 Stakes Road, which left the home a total loss Wednesday night.

Sgt. Brian Blomstrom said most of the day was spent going through the rubble of the home, taking photos, making sketches and narrowing down the cause of the fire.

“We will look at everything,” Blomstrom said. “However, things seem to be pointing to the garage.”

Firefighters were dispatched to the home of Vern and Peggy Wheeler in Eureka Township at about 7:45 p.m. Wednesday after neighbors saw smoke and fire coming from the home and called 911. The department was assisted by Belding and Grattan fire departments after the structure because fully involved.

Greg Ackley, a neighbor, helped save the Wheelers from the fire.

Ackley was sitting in his home when he noticed a small fire in the Wheelers’ garage. At first he thought thy were just burning something until he saw the fire go up the side of the wall. He said he ran to the left side of the home to try to get inside. As he approached the door, Peggy opened the door and Ackley got her out of the home.

Ackley then went inside and pulled Vern from his walker to get him outside.

“He tried to go back in after something,” Ackley said. “But I just grabbed him and we choked our way out (of the house).”

Vern Wheeler’s grandson, Thad, left, walks the perimeter of his grandparents’ home Thursday with Greenville Department of Public Safety Officer Mark Cole as they look over damages caused by Wednesday night’s fire. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

Family members of the Wheelers were also at the scene Thursday to see if any of Vern and Peggy Wheeler’s possession were found. Although most everything was lost, some items were recovered from the basement, according to Vern’s grandson, Thad.

Thad said the American Red Cross came to the scene Wednesday night to help his grandparents.

As of late Thursday afternoon, Blomstrom said the department was one step closer to wrapping up its investigation.

“We believe the fire started due to radiant heat from an electric defrosting device located near the freezer, which caused plastic components near the heater to melt and ignite,” Blomstrom said.

The investigation is being performed by Blomstrom and Greenville Department of Public Safety Officer Mark Cole.

An insurance company will be visiting the scene sometime today.

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