November 1, 2012

Fire blamed on malfunctioning snowmobile


---- — AUSABLE FORKS — The fire that destroyed a building in AuSable Forks Tuesday night is being blamed on a faulty snowmobile.

Jay McDonald, owner of the M&M Diner, said he was working in the nearby garage on North Main Street and French Village Road. He had replaced a snowmobile’s spark plugs because it had not been running properly. Afterward, the machine seemed to be working again.

However, the engine soon set fire and ignited the back of the garage. McDonald said he briefly attempted to put the fire out himself then called for help at 5:17 p.m.

AuSable Forks Fire Chief Jason Whisher said a considerable amount of effort and manpower was necessary to put the fire out and that 10 to 12 emergency-response vehicles were at the site.

“The biggest challenge was where (the fire) was located. We kind of had to close the town down,” Whisher said, referring to a number of buildings in close proximity.

The rear wall of the garage collapsed an hour after the blaze started, between 6:30 and 7 p.m., by Whisher’s approximation.

Emergency personnel from nine fire departments responded. The garage was destroyed, but the four other buildings nestled close to the burning structure did not sustain much damage.

The M&M Diner did suffer minimal smoke damage, which, McDonald said, fire department personnel did a great job cleaning up. He hopes to re-open the eatery later this week after its power is restored and a thorough cleanup is completed.

“I am very grateful the departments did such a good job containing the fire,” he said. “I keep saying you have to keep positive, and the positive side is that no one got hurt, no one got killed, and the fire did not spread.”

The fire was extinguished by 8 p.m., Whisher said, despite the difficulty in maintaining a constant supply of water to their hoses. The chief said he didn’t know for sure why there was a problem getting water but guessed it might have something to do with the level of the Ausable River.

The garage was not insured, McDonald said.