PINE TOWNSHIP — Upon rolling up to a structure fire Saturday evening, Lakeview District Fire Chief Patrick Q. Carr began mobilizing his firefighters for a potential rescue.
A mobile home residence at 8195 W. Briggs Road — about one mile northwest of Langston off of M-91 — was completely engulfed in flames, with the fire spreading quickly to a nearby garage and barn.
At approximately 7 p.m. a neighbor had called in the fire, but when he saw a car in the driveway, he feared that the occupants of the home may be trapped inside.
“We weren’t sure, there was sketchy information at first,” Carr said. “A civilian saw the fire, knew the people who live here, but wasn’t sure if they were home.”
Carr instructed firefighters to attempt to work their way through the front door in an effort to gain entry for a possible rescue, but thankfully, it was soon realized that no one was home.
“Once the state trooper got here and started to investigate the situation with (Montcalm County) Central Dispatch, it was then that the renters got on scene,” Carr said. “We were trying to make entry as far into the fire as we could, but that was really hard to accomplish. We could barely get in through the front door.”
Once it was realized that a rescue effort was not needed, Carr concentrated the efforts of his department — along with firefighters from Maple Valley and Montcalm township fire departments who were called in on automatic mutual aid agreements — on cutting the fire off before it could spread further.
“The fire was coming across toward the garage, so we just tried to cut it off,” Carr said. “We were able to get the tractor and planter out of the garage before it hit it.”
The residence that was destroyed was the home to Jeremy and Betsy Korpal, along with their 13-year-old daughter and 10-year-old son. Jeremy said the family was away at a “Valentine’s banquet” in Big Rapids, and came home quickly after having been called about the fire.
“Everything is gone, pretty much,” he said. “The worst part is, it’s my wife’s birthday.”
The Korpal family does not have insurance, but Jeremy said the family does have a place to stay temporarily.
Carr said the Red Cross will be contacted, and donations can be delivered to Lakeview Baptist Church at 9580 Howard City Edmore Road (M-46).
The entire property is owned by Paul Stoutjesdyk of Rockford, who was thankful that no one was home at the time of the fire and that firefighters were able to save the majority of his own items located in the garage and attached storage barn.
“They did an awesome job, they even saved my tractor out of there,” he said. “What the family lost, it’s just material stuff, everyone is OK, that’s what is important.”
Carr said while the cause of the fire has not yet been determined, he has a lead on the investigation.
“The renter indicated that he has a woodstove in there and he had filled the woodbox full,” he said. “It’s more than likely something woodstove related.”
Carr said he does not believe the cause of the fire to be suspicious.
No one was injured on scene.
“All-in-all, the outcome isn’t what we like to see, but fighting the fire, it went pretty well,” he said. “Water wasn’t an issue. Manpower wasn’t an issue. It was just one of those fires that got the jump on us. Central Dispatch plays a huge roll in these things for us, they deserve a big thanks for what they do. They do a great job.”
Montcalm County EMS also assisted on scene.