BELDING — Frieda Mosher and her boyfriend, Gene Gales, were sitting in their living room enjoying each other’s conversation Tuesday afternoon when their neighbor suddenly burst through their front door.
“I hate to barge in on you, but your house is on fire,” he told them, according to Mosher.
The elderly couple quickly grabbed Mosher’s two dogs, Rosy and Sassy, hopped into their car, and drove across the street to see firetrucks pulling up the street to their home, now pouring with smoke from the rear of the building.
“The neighbors had company over and they saw the smoke,” Gales said. “They came over and told us, one of them called 911. From there, we got the hell out.”
Firefighters from the Belding Fire Department were dispatched to 214 Elizabeth St. at 4:09 p.m. First responders arrived on scene at 4:12 p.m. to find smoke coming from the eves of the house.
Belding Fire Chief Gregg Moore said his department immediately began fighting the fire offensively from within.
“This was offensive, we went right inside,” Moore said. “The owners had just come outside. They said the fire was in the bathroom, so we went right in. But they didn’t find the fire there, they found it upstairs, so they went upstairs and began fighting the fire.”
Moore said his firefighter began attacking the fire, but parts of it that had spread became difficult to find and extinguish due to the old age of the home.
“Because it’s an older house, the fire has gotten into some confined spaces,” he said. “Because it’s basically a story and a half, the eves let the fire carry all the way up to the peak (of the home). We had to work from the eves all the way up to the peak in order to get to the entire fire.”
Firefighters began climbing onto the roof of the home and cutting holes from above to extinguish the remaining portions of the fire inaccessible from within.
Moore said his department was able to save a good portion of the home.
“The first floor is not in bad shape, the basement is excellent, it’s not a total loss,” he said. “They are going to be able to save a lot from the first floor. We’re trying to protect the furniture right now.”
Moore said the homeowners told him they believed the fire started due to an “electrical issue,” but said it was too soon to declare a cause of the fire, which remains under investigation.
“The owner said he believed he was having an electrical issue right at the time the fire started and to us that looks like a very distinct possibility, but we’re definitely going to need an investigator to come in on this one,” he said.
Firefighters fought the fire as temperatures hovered just above zero degrees, with wind chills around minus 15, but Moore said the cold didn’t cause any major problems for his firefighters.
“So far the cold hasn’t been a big issue,” he said. “It’s cold, but everybody’s holding their own so far. We’re doing good by keeping warm in the cab of the trucks and rotating guys.”
Moore said the biggest issue for firefighters was slipping and falling on icy surfaces with the water freezing, but workers from the Department of Public Works arrived on scene and provided sand which they spread around the fire trucks to aid the firefighters.
“That really helped the guys out,” Moore said. “Sitting up on the roof with an icy ladder can also present problems, but so far no issues.”
Moore said there was one minor injury on scene as a firefighter fell through the second floor of the home.
“One firefighter fell through the floor, but it was a short distance,” he said. “He rode it down and he’s been checked out and he is fine.”
Mosher said she and Gales will be staying with her son for the time being. Mosher’s home is insured.
The Belding Police Department and Life EMS also assisted on scene.