After crash, Fairgrove Township woman dodges fire

This home along M-138 north of Darbee Road, near Fairgrove in Tuscola County, was seriously damaged by fire on Saturday, New Year’s Eve. Kevin and Katie Erdody own the home, and the couple and their son, Whyatt, have moved out of the house due to damage caused by the blaze. (Photo by John Cook)
This home along M-138 north of Darbee Road, near Fairgrove in Tuscola County, was seriously damaged by fire on Saturday, New Year’s Eve. Kevin and Katie Erdody own the home, and the couple and their son, Whyatt, have moved out of the house due to damage caused by the blaze. (Photo by John Cook)

A pregnant Katie (Stoeckle) Erdody survived a five-car crash on U.S. 10 a few weeks back, and on Saturday, she and her husband, Kevin – and their soon-to-be baby – escaped a fire at their home in Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township.

“I was surprised at how quick that fire spread; within a minute, that whole house was filled with smoke,” said Kevin Erdody, who said he was with his wife in the home at 2523 N. Thomas Road (M-138), north of Fairgrove, when the blaze began about 1:45 p.m.

Katie Erdody, six months pregnant, wasn’t hurt in the crash or fire, and Kevin Erdody said he wasn’t injured, either, in the blaze on New Year’s Eve.

Whyatt Erdody, 11, a sixth-grader at Akron-Fairgrove Junior High School, wasn’t home at the time of blaze.  Katie Erdody, who works for Members First Credit Union in Midland, was upstairs “working on the baby’s room,” Kevin Erdody said.

Kevin Erdody, who drives a semitrailer for XPO Logistics Inc., had been remodeling the home’s kitchen when he took a break from the project, only to hear one of the home’s smoke alarms alert him.

“We were pretty fortunate that no one was injured,” Erdody said. “I was down in the kitchen working and went to take a break because I’d been working five or six hours, and I was tired. I went upstairs to see what my wife was doing and I wasn’t up there five minutes and all of a sudden we heard that smoke alarm.”

Erdody said at the time of the fire, he was using a smoker in the attached garage to flavor pork butts for New Year’s Eve dinner. 

Kevin Erdody, center, with his wife, Katie, and their son, Whyatt, 11, are staying at the home of Erdody’s grandmother, Marian Erdody, near Akron after their home in Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township was damaged by fire about 1:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. (Courtesy photo)
Kevin Erdody, center, with his wife, Katie, and their son, Whyatt, 11, are staying at the home of Erdody’s grandmother, Marian Erdody, near Akron after their home in Tuscola County’s Fairgrove Township was damaged by fire about 1:45 p.m. on New Year’s Eve. (Courtesy photo)

“I thought ‘There’s no way that smoker is making enough smoke to make the smoke alarm go off,’” Erdody said. “I come downstairs and the doorway from my kitchen to the living room was on fire.

“I had killed the power to the kitchen. I didn’t want something like this to happen. I had the breaker shut off – you know what I mean? It all went to one plug, the one plug I kept live, so I could keep lights on and use the drill. You gotta have something.”

Erdody and his wife exited the smoke-filled home when he decided to return to retrieve his wife’s purse.

“I went back in and grabbed her purse because I thought ‘We’re going to need credit cards and stuff to pay for stuff,’” Erdody said. “I brought the purse back outside and I asked ‘Where’s the dog?’”

The Erdody family Labrador retriever, Rusty, “was scared upstairs because of the smoke alarm going off, and I had to go back upstairs to carry my Lab downstairs.”

Erdody said the pet “wouldn’t run downstairs; he’s a coward, to start with.”

Erdody estimates the damage to the home and its contents at close to $200,000 to the three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home, which has a two-car attached garage.

Erdody said firefighters “are pretty sure it was an electrical fire in the kitchen.” The Advertiser couldn’t reach firefighters for comment. Erdody said he’d invested time and money into improving his home, only to see fire drive the family from it.

“I was doing some framing, getting stuff ready to put in new windows,” Erdody said. “The weekend prior, I put in two new doors and a new window, and I still had two more windows to put in.

“Of course, an old house is never framed right. They used to just cut a hole and they didn’t put any frame around it. I had the walls opened up and I was framing it. In the last four years, I’ve put over $60,000 of my own money into this house.”

Erdody said the house “used to have old slate siding and old buildings falling down everywhere, and an old roof, and I had to fix the well and the septic.”

“I was just starting to see some daylight on this house,” he added. “I replaced a lot of wiring in the house; in the past I’d been working on it. But I can’t remember if that plug had a new wire running to it.”

Kevin and Katie Erdody, and their son, are staying at the home of Erdody’s grandmother, Marian Erdody, along Merry Road near Akron.

Erdody said the home “was insured, but I’m starting to wish I had my insurance bumped higher than I did, though; I’ve been starting to add stuff up and I’m, like, ‘Aww, man, this is costly.’”

Erdody said he cut off the supply of natural gas to his home before doing his renovation work in the kitchen. “I took every procedure just so this wouldn’t happen,” he said. “I was careful.”

Erdody said the family doesn’t need help from donors of money or household items.

“We should be all right – we’ve been pretty fortunate with friends and family,” he said.

He added “There’s a lot more people who need help than what we do, and we had insurance on the house, and we both have good jobs.”

Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at gilchrist@tcadvertiser.com

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