House destroyed in fire; homeowners escape blaze

October 16, 2015

Juniper fire -1By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

GOLDEN TWP. — A two-story home was completely destroyed in what appeared to be an electrical fire early Friday afternoon, Oct. 16, in the Juniper Beach South subdivision, and the elderly homeowners escaped unharmed.

The home at 2946 N. Lakeshore Dr. owned by Fred and Fia Moederzoon was insured, Fred said, and they plan to stay at their primary home in the Grand Rapids area.

Juniper fire -2Fred, who is 80 years old, said he was in the shower at the time the fire started, and he ran out of the home naked to escape the blaze. A Hallack Contracting worker, Karl Butcher, who was working on a land erosion control project nearby pulled Fred from the home, said Hallack worker Scott Berry. “He pulled the man out of the house and called 911,” Berry said of Butcher. “He’s the hero.”

“The fire started in the electrical box,” Berry said. “Flames were shooting out of the house when we got there.”

Another Hallack worker and former Walkerville firefighter, Spencer Verschueren, grabbed a hose and began spraying the dune grass to prevent the fire from spreading to nearby homes.

A house next door received extensive exterior damage, and another nearby home received exterior smoke damage, neighbors said. OCP was initially told by neighbors on scene that the two other homes were extensively damaged.

Fred said his wife was able to pull their car out of the garage to save it from the blaze. Fia said they had lived in the home for 23 years.

Many neighbors came to the rescue before firefighters arrived. Harold “Skip” Harder and his sister, Judy Davidson who was visiting from Stevensville, ran out to the scene and grabbed garden hoses to spray the grass so the fire would not spread to other homes close by. “We were putting water on it before the fire department got here,” Davidson said. She believes their quick actions likely saved two other homes from the fire fueled by the windy Juniper fire - 3conditions. Skip also called 911, she said.

Oceana County EMS was at the scene, and firefighters from Shelby-Benona, Hart and Pentwater battled the blaze. Crystal Township Fire Department’s tanker was called to assist. Other departments were called in as standby to provide manpower at the fire stations that were on scene. Grant Township was called to the Shelby station.

“We saw flames coming from the roof of the house,” Davidson said. “We heard the aluminum siding snapping on the other house. It spread like wildfire.”

“With that wind, it went up like a torch,” Fred, the homeowner, said. Fia said the next door home that received extensive exterior damage is owned by Dennis and Sharon Hedinger, who were not home at the time of the fire.

“I heard crackling, and looked out the bathroom window and saw solid black smoke. I heard the electrical wire snap.”

“We are very thankful to all the fire departments that came here,” she said.

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