Sculpture starts house fire

A sculpture Grand Haven artist Michael Westra recently moved to the front of his house was the cause of a fire late Monday afternoon.
Becky Vargo
Jan 10, 2012


“It’s been around forever,” Westra said of the art, after a friend alerted him to a ruckus around his house. “I just moved it there a week ago.”

Firefighters were called to the Westra home, 1234 Sheldon Road, about 4:33 p.m. when a passer-by saw flames on the front of the house, said Sgt. Clint Holt of the Grand  Haven Department of Public Safety.

The first officer on the scene used a fire extinguisher and was able to put the fire out before it got out of control, Holt said. A thermal-imaging camera was used to make sure the fire did not extend into the house.

Holt said the only thing damaged was a plastic shutter that burned and some paint that blistered off the overhang.

Nobody was home at the time.

Holt said a prism in the sculpture caught the sun’s rays at just the right angle and focused them on the shutter, causing the shutter to ignite.

“That lens has a certain focal length to it,” Westra said. “It has to be just right or it’s not in focus. The sun was at just the right angle. It was a freaky thing.”

Westra said he never thought something like this would happen. “But I should have,” he said.

“Now I have a new project for the weekend,” Westra added.

The fire was ruled accidental, police said.


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