Despite a burn ban in St. Joseph County and our ongoing drought conditions, a burning debris pile left attended did extensive damage to a Granger home.
Five fire departments responded to a call just before noon Wednesday at a home in the 5300 block of Buckeye Road.
There is extensive damage to the back of the house, the porch is destroyed, flames spread into the attic and one exterior wall is bowed ... and there was a lot of heat damage.
Clay Fire Territory Fire Marshal Dave Cherrone says the owner of the home started a brush fire Tuesday night about 125 feet away from the house. He thought it was out, but wasn't. Cherrone says fire crews used a thermal imaging camera and found the internal temperature of the pile was between 300 and 400 degrees.
Wednesday's wind gusts stirred up hot coals in the debris pile, catching the dry grass on fire, then spreading the flames to the house.
Inside the house, a nanny and child heard a "slamming noise," looked out the window and saw flames.
They were able to make it out safely.
Cherrone says the owner appeared to be unaware of the burn ban issued last Thursday, but Cherrone warns people need to use common sense in these dry conditions.
"We were kind of afraid that people would think that, because it rained, everything’s fine. But until it's wet and green, it's not fine," stressed Cherrone.
Cherrone says since the St. Joseph County burn ban was put into place last week, Clay Fire Territory firefighters have been called out to six grass or brush fires, including one Wednesday along Harrison Street in Warren Township.
The Granger homeowner will not be fined for violating the burn ban.
Cherrone says, first time offenders get warnings and habitual offenders are normally fined. In this case, it's believed the homeowner may have been traveling and unaware of the burn ban. Cherrone says because of the extensive damage, the house could be a complete loss.