Blaze linked to homemade fireworks

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 2:45 PM

A month after moving into a house he planned to renovate, he watched his dreams go up in smoke.

The man, who declined to give his name, said one of his friends was shooting off fireworks in the yard when the house, located at 612 Columbus Ave., caught on fire shortly after 11 a.m. Friday.

Jay Bowers said he and Bob VerDuin heard the commotion from next door.

“We were loading a grill in that white truck,” Bowers said. “We heard some noise and looked over there. We saw them trying to fight the fire with a garden hose.”

Bowers said he heard a guy say, “Help me fight this, get the ladder.” The other guy said, “it’s (the fire) in the bathroom."

Bowers and his son, Tom, helped rescue a dog and a cat from the house as firefighters were on their way. One of the residents said another cat was still missing.

Firefighters from Grand Haven, Grand Haven Township and Ferrysburg battled the blaze, cutting holes in the roof and using an aerial truck to douse the house.

Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said the back of the house’s second floor was fully involved in fire when the first firefighters arrived.

“We made an initial attack, ventilated the roof and did a second attack,” he said.

Hawke said the older home had been remodeled several times, so there were lots of voids that had to be checked for fire.

Fire damage was contained to the upstairs and attic areas. Hawke said there was smoke and water damage throughout the house.

Hawke said firefighters also discovered more than a pound of black powder in the basement, which they had to “mitigate.”

Basically, they doused it with water, he said.

Hawke said it was the type of powder you would use in a muzzleloader.

“It’s not unusual. We’re investigating,” he said in the early afternoon.

A Grand Haven Department of Public Safety detective individually questioned the occupants of the home while the fire was being fought.

Later in the afternoon, Hawke released a statement that said "the investigation has revealed that the resident was using black powder to manufacture homemade fireworks and caused an accidental fire."

The fire remains under investigation, Hawke added. Once the investigation is complete, the information will be reviewed by the Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.

Read Hawke's full statement by clicking on the PDF below:

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