High winds tear through Tuscola County Wednesday, keep firefighters busy

Firefighters battle a blaze Wednesday afternoon in Kingston Township. Fire Chief Jeff Mallory said high winds made it difficult to extinguish the blaze. (Photo by Andrew Dietderich)

Firefighters were busy Wednesday as high winds tore through Tuscola County and left a trail of damage behind.

The most active area in Tuscola County was south of M-81, as firefighters from Caro, Cass City, Mayville, Millington, Kingston, Vassar, Reese were all kept active.

Further assistance came from the likes of Sanilac County’s Lamotte Township and the Marathon Area Fire Department (Otter Lake).

Alex Manion, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Oakland County’s White Lake Township, said peak gusts were reported between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Bishop International Airport, near Flint, recorded a peak gust of 60 mph at 2:53 p.m., while a peak gust of 46 mph was reported at  Caro at 2:15 p.m., Manion said.

Caro Fire Department Chief Randy Heckroth said the department had 10 calls Wednesday for wires down. Of those, nine resulted in small fires that Heckroth said the department was able to contain “very quick” due to fast response.

Each of the calls had firefighters on scene for about six hours as they waited for either DTE or Thumb Electric Co-op to respond (depending on location). Heckroth said resources were “drained” at the end of the day. One dog died that tried to sniff a live wire that had fallen, he said.

Firefighters from Watertown Township were assisted by Mayville and Marathon Area fire departments for a field fire that burned about 7 acres of dry grass and threatened a nearby wooded area.

The location was on North Lake Road, between Brown and Swaffer roads, but the wind was blowing so hard that those on Leix – east of North Lake – were impacted. Firefighters were able to catch it just in time, said Tuscola County Emergency Services Director Steve Anderson.

“I couldn’t even see out my windows because of the smoke,” said Jerry Judd, who lives on Leix and drove around to North Lake to talk to emergency personnel.

Kingston Fire & Rescue responded to three calls as of 6 p.m.

Two were for downed wires, and a third was for a house fire in the 6200 block of Bevens Road, east of Cemetery Road.

Kingston Fire & Rescue Chief Jeff Mallory said the occupants of the house were not home at the time because the children who live in the house were being picked up from school.

He said what should have been a relatively easy fire to extinguish took a lot more effort – and did a lot more damage – due to the high winds.

“It made it dang near impossible to get out,” Mallory said.  The cause of the fire was too hard to determine, he said, because of the extent of the damage.

Vassar firefighters said they were dispatched at 12:01 p.m.to a fire on Loren Road in Tuscola Township that damaged the property owned by Al Goodman.

The blaze damaged items stored in a fenced in area near a workshop, said firefighters, who kept the fire from spreading to nearby buildings.

After the wind blew part of a tree down near a home on Butler Street in Vassar, it caused electrical wires to start a fire on a wooden fence next to a nearby home at 415 Hoxie St., firefighters said.

The blaze did minor damage to the fence, said firefighters, who used wildfire rakes and a garden hose to extinguish the blaze near the Hoxie Street home owned by Jamie Dean.

Wind at 9:06 a.m. knocked down a tree about 50 feet in height causing it to fall a few feet from a mobile home owned by Barry Shaver along Saginaw Road, east of Caine Road in Tuscola County’s Vassar Township.  IMG_15511

A man renting the mobile home (who wouldn’t provide his name) said he was in the home’s bedroom at the time and “it sounded like a car accident when it happened.”

Mark Havens of Fremont Township, a friend of the renter, said a branch from the tree pierced the front wall of the home and poked through part of an interior floor in the residence.

Havens said the weight of part of the tree in the home damage part of a wall and that it took the renter “a long time to get out of the house because it blocked (exit from) one door and he had to break branches off the tree just to get out.”

The renter said a 4-foot long tree branch “shot like a missile” through one of the mobile home’s windows and landed in the kitchen.

“If the tree had fallen just a little bit this way it would have landed on my bedroom,” the renter said.

Tom Gilchrist contributed to this report. 



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