Southfield crews battle big blaze on Berg

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published April 12, 2018

A local homeowner is grappling with the total loss of his house and garage following a major fire.

According to Southfield Fire Chief Johnny Menifee, a 911 call was received at around 4 p.m. April 11 reporting a garage fire on Berg Road, between Eight Mile and Nine Mile roads.

Menifee said crews arrived at the scene five minutes later, and the garage and the home on the property were fully involved.

Crews were met with a few challenges.

“The thing that made it challenging was that the home was at least 700 feet off of Berg Road, so actually getting back there to the house made it challenging with the water supply,” Menifee said. “That created a special challenge for us.”

Responders were also met with the presence of some hazardous materials, including propane, kerosene, heavy plastics, acetone and fiberglass material.

“He had some materials in his garage that we were concerned with,” Menifee said. “There were a couple of tanks — I wouldn’t say ‘exploded’ is the right word, but we were a bit concerned, so we went to a defensive operation. We were monitoring the air and we had been in touch with our hazmat team.”

All responders at the scene had devices to monitor their air, Menifee said, and there were no injuries reported to the homeowner. One minor injury to a firefighter was reported, but no medical attention was needed.
Menifee said he believes that the homeowner had attempted to put out the fire before he called for professional help.

“You don’t want to try to do this yourself. Alert us and get us going,” he said. “I’d rather come to your house and you tell me it’s a false alarm and it was a mistake, instead of you not calling us and getting into trouble. We’d rather come and help you with your problem before it becomes an ever bigger problem.”

The delay in reporting the fire, combined with the house’s proximity to the road, contributed to the loss of the house and the garage, Menifee said.

“Early detection is a big part of our service. Fire grows 16 times larger every three minutes, so the longer it takes for the call and for us to get there, the bigger problem we’ll face when we get there,” he said. “It got a big head start on us, and having the long stretch of the house being so far off the road created an issue for us.”
The cause of the blaze is still under investigation, Menifee said, but officials believe it started in the garage.

A fire at the same location was reported less than a year ago under the same circumstances, according to Menifee. Additional information on that fire was not immediately available.

Consumers Energy and DTE were called to the scene, Menifee said, to disable the gas and electric service to the house while crews battled the fire.

The scene was cleared by around 8 p.m., Menifee said.