Veteran Vassar firefighter Dennis Fent could see the flames from 10 miles away early Sunday morning as his crew raced toward a 4:45 a.m. fire in Mayville.
“You could see the orange,” said Fent, one of the firefighters from numerous departments responding to the blaze at Northern Log Supply along M-24 at Industrial Park Drive in Mayville.
“You could see the fire flickering and, of course, the heavy smoke coming up. It was one of those where you didn’t need directions to know where you were going. As soon as we left the city of Vassar, we were a mile outside of town and we could see it. It was obvious in the sky.”
Tuscola County Sheriff’s Office deputies, along with an off-duty Michigan State Police trooper, evacuated nearby homes according to the sheriff’s office. Deputies, along with Vassar Police Dept. officers, reported directing traffic at nearby intersections as firefighters from at least seven departments responded to the scene.
Northern Log Supply, with about 25 employees according to a business spokesman, sells log and wood products, according to its website.
Fent praised firefighters, led by the Mayville department, from keeping the blaze from destroying adjacent buildings.
“There was another large structure right in the back of the complex, while the office is in front,” Fent said. “I think the departments did a superb job for containing it just into the building where the fire was.”
The Caro Fire Dept.’s aerial firefighting truck provided valuable help, according to Fent.
“That was a great advantage for knocking this big one down, and containing it,” Fent said. “That was a good piece of equipment to have on scene. That really made a big difference.”
The Advertiser couldn’t reach Mayville firefighters for comment about the potential cause of the blaze.
Fent heard several explosions from inside the burning building, but didn’t characterize them as major ones.
“There were things that exploded in there, but stop and think about it – it’s a business, or it could have just been some kinds of cylinders,” Fent said. “Or something that got pressurized, or a hydraulic tank on a machine.”
Northern Log Supply, according to the website, is a construction company selling cedar-log railings, custom-designed and manufactured staircases, and paneling made of aspen, white cedar or pine. The business also sells “antiqued or distressed wood, modern nickel gap or shiplap,” according to the website.
The fire generated intense heat, according to Fent.
“Once we had our fire gear on, you didn’t want to let any skin hang out, because it was an extremely hot fire,” Fent said.
Fent, who has fought area fires for 50 years, said Sunday’s Mayville blaze ranks as one of the bigger ones.
“It was definitely one of the more major fires that we’ve had over the years in the area cities and communities,” Fent said. “Anytime you lose a large structure like that, that’s pretty devastating to the economy all the way around.”
Tom Gilchrist is a staff writer for The Advertiser. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.