Sunday afternoon was warm enough to grill out, but it was arguably too windy to do so.
“The gentleman was out grilling and with the wind conditions and everything, leaves all over the place, some leaves ignited,” said Capt. Stuart Thurlow with North Berrien Fire Rescue.
It took nine fire departments some three hours to fight the resulting blaze at the Pottawattamie Resort off Lake Michigan near Coloma.
One tenant today told News Center 16 that hers was one of two cabins in the vicinity of the fire that were occupied.
Five people were inside her unit, including two children, ages five and nine. While all the humans got out alive, two cats did die, and the flames spread so fast that she only had time to move one of her two cars. Today the other stood charred and gutted by the flames.
The woman said that the fire started after someone started the grill behind her cabin.
The man who lit the grill went inside to get the food, when one of the children noticed that the porch was on fire.
“Once those leaves started, the whole building, within five minutes, the buildings were in flames,” said Capt. Thurlow. I can't stress enough call 911 right away, the gentleman tried to put it out pots and pans and water, and it got too hot, too quick, too big.”
At one point, trees as tall as 75 feet caught fire. The blowing embers even threatened to start another cabin ablaze in another portion of the resort about 300 feet away. Firemen quickly doused that fire, and sprayed water on other structures in the area.
When firefighters could not get an acceptable angle to allow them to extinguish some burning trees, tree trimmers were called in to cut those branches down.