Fire destroys Riverton farm house

May 21, 2013

riverton fire 2300 w chauvez roadVIDEO BELOW.

By Rob Alway,

Editor-in-Chief.

RIVERTON TWP. — “There’s a lot of memories right there,” Travis Gerbers said early Tuesday morning as he watched his childhood home go up in flames. “Our entire family was raised in that house.”

Gerbers watched the old farmhouse at 2300 W. Chauvez Road burn, as did firefighters on the scene. Riverton Township Fire Department had no choice but to let the house burn, due to the possibility of explosives, possibly dynamite and black powder, being in the house.

Riverton, Scottville and Custer fire departments were called to the empty home at 9:50 p.m. Flames were coming from the house when Riverton firefighters arrived.

The home was owned by John “Jack” Gerbers but he hasn’t lived there for at least five years, family members said. Jack’s daughter, Elsie was mowing the lawn at the house when she saw smoke coming from inside.

Riverton firefighters had just ended their training when they got called. Fire Chief Joe Cooper said because there were still firefighters at the station, they were able to respond quickly and arrive on the scene in only a few minutes, which meant they knocked down the flames quickly. However, when family members arrived they informed firefighters that there may be explosives on the east side of the house.

20130521-011152.jpgCooper immediately ordered firefighting to stop and consulted the Michigan State Police bomb squad in Lansing. Their advice was to back away and allow the fire to burn. Adding water to the fire may have caused the explosives to detonate, meaning firefighters would have been too close to the house and could have risked severe injuries.

About 40 minutes went by before any flames came out of the house. When that happened, the chief ordered Chauvez Road between Stiles and Schwass roads to be shut down, keeping onlookers back a few hundred yards.

Family members said watching the house burn was difficult but they knew it was the safest option. Ammunition could be heard exploding for several minutes as the house burned. At one point, a loud explosion  occurred, most likely from a nearby propane tank.

Chief Cooper said he did not know what initially started the fire.

Cindy Gerbers said the dynamite, was purchased about 40 years ago to blow up stumps. She said the family wasn’t exactly sure if it was still in the house but didn’t want to take any chances.

Firefighters cleared the scene at 2 a.m. with Cooper reporting fire still burning in the house’s basement. Department personnel were expected to return to the scene later after day break to check on conditions.

 

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