Firefighters were called at 1:41 p.m. to the home of Fred and Linda Strevy, 20039 North Shore Road.
“There was heavy smoke and flames coming from the house,” said Grand Haven Department of Public Safety command officer Eric Rasch. “I could see that from half to three-quarters of a mile away.”
Rasch said he immediately put out an all-call for his department, and then requested help from the Ferrysburg and Spring Lake Township fire departments.
There were more than 50 people at the south pier watching the fire from across the Grand River, backing up traffic along Harbor Drive. They saw flames shooting from the top floor of the two-story home and black, acrid smoke billowing across the river.
James Balow, 18, of Grand Rapids and a friend were camping at Grand Haven State Park when they saw the scene unfold. They headed for the south pier to see fire and smoke coming from across the river.
“We thought it was a transformer box because it was sparking so much,” Balow said. "Once we got over here, we realized it was a condo or something.”
The U.S. Coast Guard and Ottawa County Sheriff's Department marine patrol were in the river on stand by.
To see more photos from the scene of the fire, click here.
Firefighters surrounded the home nestled in the dunes near North Shore Marina, fighting the fire from the exterior “due to the fire volume and instability of the second-floor walls, Grand Haven Public Safety Director Jeff Hawke said.
The fire raged, then spit for more than an hour before it was declared out about 2:50 p.m.
Corky Beukema said he saw something strange by his neighbor’s house earlier that afternoon when he went to sit in his front room at 20056 North Shore Road.
“I couldn’t tell if it was dust or smoke,” said the longtime north shore resident. “It was emulating out the open garage door.”
Beukema said he called the home's owner, Fred Strevy, who was not at home at the time.
Strevy said he and his wife had left the house about 11:40 a.m. to go to the hospital, where his wife was having a procedure done. Nothing seemed amiss at the time, he said.
It was more than an hour later when Strevy got the call from Beukema and returned home.
“When I pulled around the corner, I could see a little smoke,” Strevy said. “It was coming out of the garage a little bit.”
Strevy said he went out the steps and cracked open the slider door. “Smoke just started pouring out,” he said.
Strevy said he called 911 and backed away.
Beukema said at that time you could see the flames filling the room.
Strevy backed his van across the road and took his dog, Sonny, into Beukema’s house. He watched from a distance as firefighters rushed around, first dousing the flames, and then soaking the house with foam.
Strevy said he and his wife, Linda, have lived in the house for 17 years. He said the house was for sale because they were downsizing.
They’ve yet to buy another home, so everything the family owns was still inside, he said.
The musician, one of the founders of the local group Beach Bashers, was especially concerned about his guitar. Once the fire was completely out, Hawke brought the treasured instrument across the street. Strevy’s eyes lit up as he opened the case and saw that only a small amount of water had gotten inside.
“It’s a very rare guitar,” he said. “It’s a Fender Performer and they only made a couple hundred of them.”
Strevy said the guitar was even more important now, because he’s going to need it to make money.
Hawke said the upstairs of the home was a total loss. The downstairs had heavy smoke and water damage.
Officials were still on the scene late in the afternoon investigating the cause of the fire.
Also assisting at the scene were the Spring Lake/Ferrysburg Police Department, North Ottawa Community Hospital paramedics, and Norton Shores Fire Department and Canteen Unit.
Tribune reporter Alex Doty contributed to this story.