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Nine fire departments respond for massive Ortonville blaze

by Susan Bromley

June 20, 2012

Firefighters pour water on the remains of the building at 255 Narrin Street in Ortonville. Photo provided.
Ortonville- Eight local fire departments responded last week to assist Brandon firefighters in extinguishing one of the largest fires ever in the township.

The blaze began at about 1:03 a.m. June 18 and destroyed a building on property the village is in the process of purchasing at 255 Narrin Street. Atlas, Hadley, Groveland, Independence, Springfield, Metamora and Oxford firefighters arrived at the scene to assist Brandon. Orion Township firefighters responded to cover Station #2 in the event of any other fire calls. Star EMS was on standby for medical emergencies.

Brandon Fire Chief David Kwapis said upon arrival of fire units to the vacant building, which formerly housed Ak'Wa Water and which has stood empty for the past several years, the fire was through the roof of one-third of the building.

"The safety of going in was extremely questionable," said Kwapis. "It was strictly a defensive operation because it was a vacant building."

The roof collapsed shortly after the arrival of firefighters. The village was in the process of getting the building condemned, but utilities were still connected because the building is still owned by the bank that foreclosed on the property. The fire melted the gas meter, and the gas line erupted as a result. It was not the cause of the fire, which is still undetermined.

Firefighters were on the scene for several hours, finally clearing the area at around 8 a.m., with all units ready for the next call at about 9 a.m.

The village is slated to close on purchase of the Narrin Street property on July 10.

"The building was known to be in bad shape and we were going to take it down anyway," said Village Manager John Lyons. "We have an agreement and they have insurance to cover it. I don't think it will change the agreement. If we close (on the property) the way it is, there will be less demolition to do and less material to deal with."

The council unanimously approved in January a motion to pay $2,000 as a refundable deposit to Apex Company for the purchase of the property at 255 Narrin St. Apex, based in Pennsylvania, is a mortgage company that owns the property after a foreclosure. The original asking price was $104,000. After some negotiations, the village council and Apex agreed on a price of $40,000.

The village obtained 278 Narrin at no cost due to unpaid back taxes.

The council is considering both properties for a waste water treatment plant, which could be used to service businesses and residences within the village as well as Brandon Schools.