Source: Sherman Publications

Fire & ice

by CJ Carnacchio

December 25, 2013

The ice storm that hit the Oxford/Addison area Saturday night and Sunday morning was both beautiful and destructive.

It was beautiful in that it coated everything from tree branches to Christmas decorations in a glistening layer of ice.

It was destructive in that it brought down countless tree limbs, branches and power lines, which left nearly 8,600 Oxford and Addison residents without electricity and led to house fires on Frederick Dr., just south of Seymour Lake Rd., and Hillsite Dr., east of Baldwin Rd.

Weight from the ice brought a high tension wire down on an electrical service line for the house at 82 Frederick Dr., which in turn, also fell to the ground, according to Oxford Fire Chief Pete Scholz.

This caused the natural gas pipe connected to the meter to catch fire shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday. The fire traveled up the front of the house and into the attic area, which sustained “quite a bit of damage,” Scholz said.

The fallen power lines also “super-energized” all the electrical wires and phone lines in the house, igniting a small fire in the basement.

“Everything in the house was snapping and popping,” Scholz said. “All the electrical wires throughout the entire house are melted and burned.”

Firefighters were able to knock down the blaze and keep the fire confined to the natural gas line, which continued burning until about 10:30 a.m. when Consumers Energy was finally able to shut it off.

The home was occupied at the time of the fire, but there were no injuries. “They all got out,” Scholz said.

Unfortunately, Scholz doesn’t believe the home is salvageable. The chief explained that the entire house will have to be re-wired, which means removing all the drywall.

“By the time they do all that and take the roof off the house and the (attached) garage, it’s probably going to be more efficient for the insurance company to just total it and start over,” Scholz said.

Another house fire occurred at 3655 Hillsite Dr. at approximately 11 p.m. Sunday.

Scholz said the fire was caused by a generator inside the home’s attached garage.

When electricity was restored to the home, the owner shut off the generator, but failed to disconnect it from the electrical panel.

“The power was then able to backfeed through the electrical panel into the generator and start the generator on fire,” Scholz said. “That, in turn, fully engulfed the garage and also burned up his two automobiles that were parked directly in front of the garage.”

The fire spread into the laundry room area of the house and the attic.

“We were able to stop the fire at that point before it got into the rest of the house,” Scholz said. “You’ve got smoke and water (damage) throughout a good share of the house, but the majority of it is still in good shape.”

Oxford was assisted on the Hillsite Dr. fire by departments from Brandon, Orion, Independence and Addison. The Metamora Twp. Fire Department covered Oxford’s stations.

Scholz wished to remind residents to not run generators inside attached garages because the carbon monoxide can easily spread into the home.

“Some homeowners are leaving the garage door shut with the generator running inside and it just fills the house with carbon monoxide,” he said “We ran on like five carbon monoxide alarms (on Sunday).”

In addition to fighting fires, Scholz indicated his personnel were busy responding to calls related to an estimated 60 to 70 downed wires or trees touching wires throughout the township and village.

“There’s a lot of tree damage,” he said.

Following the ice storm, the number of Oxford and Addison residents without power continued to climb.

According to DTE Energy’s on-line power outage map, at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, there were a total of 5,778 customers without electricity in the Oxford and Addison zip codes 48371, 48370, 48367 and 48366. That total increased to 8,518 at 6:15 p.m. Sunday.

By 7 a.m. Monday, it had gone up slightly to 8,569. By 12:30 p.m., it decreased to 8,521.

Over in Addison, Fire Chief Jerry Morawski said things were a lot quieter.

There were no fires, however, Addison fire personnel did respond to approximately 35 calls related to downed wires.

“We were pretty fortunate this time,” Morawski said.

The chief noted there were lots of fallen or overhanging trees and limbs blocking Addison’s roadways.

“The back roads are pretty bad,” he said. “The road commission is doing the best they can (to clear things).”