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Damage estimated at more than $100K in Robinson Twp. fire

Becky Vargo • Updated Nov 24, 2015 at 2:14 PM

ROBINSON TWP. — Damage was estimated at more than $100,000 in a house fire late Monday night on 144th Avenue.

“They lost pretty much everything,” Robinson Township Fire Chief Paul VanVelzen said Tuesday morning.

Firefighters from Robinson and Grand Haven townships responded to the Michael and Mary Walters home in the 12000 block of 144th Avenue shortly after 10 p.m. Monday.

The first firefighter on the scene found the garage already fully involved in fire.

Mary Walters was the only one home at the time.

“She had gone out 15-30 minutes prior and stoked up the wood stove (in the garage) to help keep the dogs warm,” VanVelzen said. “She was sitting in the living room, heard some popping sounds and saw some smoke coming in the kitchen window.”

VanVelzen said Walters looked out the slider and saw smoke coming from the southeast corner of the garage, where the wood stove was located.

She ran out of the house, opening the door to let the dogs out as she went.

“She ran to the neighbor’s house to call 911,” the chief said. “Her cell phone was left in the house.”

VanVelzen said the homeowner was pretty sure at least one of the dogs got out of the house. That dog was located and placed in the family’s pickup truck.

Firefighters were not able to find any sign of the second dog — a yellow Labrador retriever, which they were watching for a friend.

The chief said there was no sign of the dog in the garage, but they did not know if it ran away or was killed in the fire.

Walters was home alone, as she was working a late shift that night, a relative said. Her husband was out of town and the children were staying at their grandmother’s house. 

VanVelzen said he believes the wood stove is the cause of the fire — the heavy burn in the area indicates that’s where the fire started.

The fire quickly spread into the main level of the split-level home.

Firefighters had the main body of the fire out within 20 minutes, but remained on the scene for several hours to check for hot spots and mop up.

VanVelzen said there was a boat and lawn mower in the garage, and a lot of tools.

He estimated damage at about $100,000, and loss of contents at about $35,000.

The American Red Cross responded with advocates to assist the family and their canteen to assist the firefighters.

A neighbor said the family would stay with relatives in the area.

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