Families get back on their feet after fires destroy homes, business

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 10:38 am on Monday, November 26, 2012

The framework for a new building on the former site of Nelson’s Speed Shop in Montcalm Township begins to take shape as construction workers continue work on the new facility Friday afternoon. The new facility will replace the original building, which was destroyed in a fire in June. — Daily News/Cory Smith

The past few months have been hard for local families who have been trying to pick up the pieces and continue life the way it was before devastating fires took almost everything they owned.


Nelson’s Speed Shop 

4566 S. Greenville Road, Montcalm Township

The owners of Nelson’s Speed Shop got back on their feet after going through a devastating fire, not once but twice.

The shop, located at 4566 S. Greenville Road in Montcalm Township, experienced a second fire in 11 years on June 22, which left very little for the Nelsons to work with.

About 75 firefighters from 11 departments battled the blaze for 10 hours.

Although the fire was hard on the business and the Nelson family, they aren’t giving up.

The business, which is currently being operated out of a temporary office on the shop’s property, has begun to rebuild for the third time.

Jack Nelson told The Daily News in a previous interview he hopes to have the new facility rebuilt by winter.

“It’s going to be a little smaller so it’s more manageable,” Nelson said in the interiew.

The Nelsons were unable to comment on the ongoing rebuilding due to the Thanksgiving holiday.

The fire is currently being investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).


Jensen home

1016 Van Deinse St., Greenville

“It’s been a long, hard process,” said Lori Jensen as she looked from her family’s temporary home onto the construction of their new home.

Their house at 1016 Van Deinse St. in Greenville caught fire on July 12, leaving very little for the family to gather afterward.

None of the family was hurt during the fire and their three dogs made it out of the house. However, Jensen said one of the family dogs later had to be put down as it had cancer and the trauma from the fire was too much for it.

The Jensens and their two dogs are living in a temporarily placed modular home on the backside of their property while waiting for their new home to be built.

“We are hoping for the end of February, (beginning) of March,” said Jensen, adding that the home is going to be designed as a ranch-styled house.

The local community stepped up to help the Jensens during their rough time.

“The community has been awesome,” said Jensen, noting neighbors, businesses and more have lent a helping hand during the last several months.

The family is still trying to do inventory of everything that was lost, and trying to find out what needs to be replaced.

“We are trying to get through it all,” she said. “Losing everything is not an easy thing.”

Greenville Department of Public Safety Sgt. Brian Blomstrom said the status of the July fire is undetermined at this time.



Wheeler Home 

10325 Stakes Road, Eureka Township

A fire that had neighbors helping to get Vern and Peggy Wheeler out of their fast-burning home left the the Wheelers with only the clothes on their backs.

The Wheelers’ home at 10325 Stakes Road in Eureka Township had little left standing after a Sept. 12 fire that started in the garage ripped through the whole house in a matter of minutes.

“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 during the investigation in September.

Not only were the neighbors quick to help during the fire, they were quick to help the Wheelers stay on their feet after the fire.

“We had a lot of support,” Peggy Wheeler said of all the people who have helped them. “It’s a nice neighborhood out there.”

She said the both of them have been staying in the Turk Lake area while progress on their new house is being made. They are keeping the design close to the original structure of the house. Peggy Wheeler noted her husband Vern Wheeler used to build houses and has his hands in the building process.

“We are hoping to have it completed about Christmas,” she said, noting that way they can be “home for the holidays.”


Wright home

804 E. Oak St., Greenville

Smoke detectors is what saved Curtis Wright and his cat Felix from an Oct. 19 fire that spread through his house during early morning hours.

Both Wright and Felix made it out without injury.

“The cause (of the fire) was by electrical wiring,” said Greenville Department of Public Safety Director Michael Pousak.

The Daily News was unable to contact Wright to receive an update about whether the house will be rebuilt.

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