FERRIS TOWNSHIP — Scott Brauher, with his arms weighing heavy on the side of his green Ford pickup truck, stood in disbelief Tuesday afternoon watching helplessly as firefighters continued to extinguish the blaze that had just consumed and destroyed his Vestaburg area home.
Scott and his wife, Barb, had been gone just more than an hour in Vestaburg when they returned home to see smoke billowing high into the air.
“We were out getting lunch in Vestaburg and had just come home,” he said. “We saw smoke as we were coming up the road and thought somebody was burning trash. Once we got closer, we saw that it was our porch that was on fire.”
Richland Township Fire Chief Calvin Callison said at the scene that when his department arrived at 3241 N. Bollinger Road after being dispatched at 2:24 p.m., the fire had already completely consumed the home with flames shooting out the windows of the structure.
“The fire was totally involved when we arrived on scene,” Callison said. “I could see the smoke from Crystal Road as we approached.”
Callison said he called additional manpower from nearby Crystal Township Fire Department.
“I called Crystal right out of the chute,” he said. “Unfortunately, the structure is a total loss. There’s no way we could have saved anything.”
Callison said it was too early to pinpoint what could have caused the start of the fire and that it remains under investigation.
“It’s too early to tell right now, but this could have been caused from anything from a temporary heater to water lines thawing out, causing something to catch fire,” he said. “The fire had to have started somewhere on the northeast side of the house, based on the amount of damage surveyed from the exterior of the house.”
Callison added that there were two kerosene heaters on each end of the home that could have contributed to the cause of the fire.
A garage sitting south of the home was not damaged in the fire.
No one was injured on scene.
According to county records, the stone-built home was more than 100 years old and constructed in 1909.
“It sounds like it was just an old house that caught fire,” Callison said.
Crews remained on scene for several hours putting out hot spots in the basement of the home.
Though Brauher’s home was insured, he, his wife and three children lost everything in the fire.
Brauher was unsure if all of the family’s pets, including cats and dogs, survived the fire.
His children, ages 15, 13 and 6, attend Vestaburg Community Schools
“Everyone is staying with grandpa and grandma for right now,” Brauher said.
Braugher’s parents, Dennis and Carole Brauher, live in nearby Sumner, allowing their family to stay close to friends and family as they recover.
For those looking to aid the family with clothing, food or other items, call Barb Skirvin, wife of pastor Dan Skirvin at M-46 Tabernacle Church in Riverdale, where the family attends, at (616) 807-0203.
Montcalm County EMS assisted at the scene.