On The Job Michigan: Four-Alarm Fire Destroys Historic Lodge in Muskegon County

On Dec. 2, 2012, a four-alarm fire destroyed the historic Michillinda Lodge along the shore of Lake Michigan near Whitehall in Muskegon County, MI. The first call to the fire department was delayed for 15 minutes while occupants tried to put out the fire by themselves. Numerous tenders were ordered to the scene to supply tender-shuttle operations.


The 13,000-square-foot, four-story building was built in 1908 of Type V, balloon construction. The wooden truss roof was covered with asphalt shingles. The building contained 18 guest rooms, a kitchen and two dining rooms with seating for 200 guests. The building was equipped with smoke detectors, but no fire suppression system. The smoke detectors activated upon the ignition of the fire and awoke the occupants.


Structure-fire dispatch

The White Lake Fire Authority was dispatched to a reported structure fire at the Michillinda Lodge at 5207 Scenic Drive at 4:27 A.M. Responding units included Engine 1321, a 1,500-gpm pumper; Engine 1322, a 1,000-gpm pumper; Truck 1342, a 102-foot aerial platform with a 2,000-gpm pump; and Tender 1362, a 3,000-gallon water tender under the command of Fire Chief Gregory Holman. Also dispatched on the first alarm were the Montague Fire Authority and Dalton Township Fire Department. Montague responded with Engine 1121, a 1,250-gpm pumper; Tender 1160, a 2,000-gallon water tender; and Tender 1165, a 5,000-gallon water tender under the command of Fire Chief Dennis Roesler. Dalton responded with Engine/Tender 1220, a 1,000-gpm pumper with a 2,000-gallon tank under the command of Fire Chief Alan Styles.

Upon arrival of White Lake Engine 1322, at 4:37 A.M., First Lieutenant Keith Heidelberg immediately requested a second alarm. Heidelberg was advised that the five occupants of the lodge had evacuated the building prior to the arrival of the fire department. At this time, the fire was located in Room 8 on the second floor on the C side (lakefront) of the building. Firefighters stretched a 150-foot and a 200-foot 1¾-inch attack line from White Lake Engine 1322 to side C to enter Room 8 and encountered moderate smoke and fire conditions. Engine 1322 was supplied from Engine 1321 with a 200-foot, five-inch line. Firefighters were evacuated from the building after 15 minutes due to deteriorating conditions.


Second-alarm response

Responding on the second alarm were Muskegon Charter Township Fire Department Tenders 261 and 262, both 2,000-gallon tankers; Aerial 240, a 75-foot aerial ladder with a 1,500-gpm pump; Fire Chief David Glotzbach and Deputy Chief Robert Grabinski. The North Muskegon Fire Department responded with Engine 723, a 1,250-gpm pumper, and the Blue Lake Township Fire Department sent Engine 1422, a 1,000-gpm pumper. The White Lake Ambulance Authority, canteens from Norton Shores and Dalton Township and the local electric and gas companies were also asked to respond. The White Lake Ambulance Authority and the canteens were used for firefighter rehab.

Assuming the position of incident commander, Holman assigned Styles as safety officer, Dalton Township Captain Joe Balder as the accountability/staging officer, Glotzbach as the operations chief and Grabinski as aide to the incident commander.


Protecting exposures

There were two nearby unoccupied residential exposures that firefighters had to protect. Both buildings were of Type V construction. One building was 12 feet to the north and sustained only minor damage. The second building, located 25 feet south of the fire building, sustained exterior damage with the vinyl siding melting. Firefighters deployed a three-inch attack line with a ground monitor from White Lake Engine 1321 and another three-inch attack line with a monitor from Montague Engine 1121 to protect the two exposures.

Holman requested a third alarm at 4:44 A.M. The Blue Lake Township Fire Department responded with Tender 1461, a 2,000-gallon water tender and the Holton Township Fire Department dispatched Tenders 1960 and 1965, each carrying 2,000 gallons of water.

Three fill sites were established for the tender-shuttle operations. White Lake Engine 1322 was relocated from the scene to a site three minutes away. Engine 1322 drafted from Duck Lake using hard-suction hose and filled tenders with five-inch hose. Blue Lake Township Engine 1422 was assigned to a second site five minutes away. Engine 1422 drafted from White Lake using hard-suction hose and filled tenders with five-inch hose. A third site, the City of Whitehall municipal water system, 12 minutes away, was used by tenders filling with five-inch hose. One dump site was established at the fire scene using five portable tanks and jet siphons. The portable tanks were set up in front of White Lake Engine 1321 and Montague Engine 1121. The five portable tanks had a combined capacity of 12,000 gallons.


Defensive operations

At 4:55 A.M., Holman ordered the interior crews to be evacuated from the building due to deteriorating conditions. Two monitors were placed into operation while White Lake Truck 1342 and Muskegon Charter Township Truck 240 were being set up and water-supply operations were coordinated. White Lake Engine 1321 supplied White Lake Truck 1342 with a 200-foot, five-inch line. Montague Engine 1121 supplied Muskegon Charter Township Truck 240 with a 100-foot, five-inch line.

Holman requested a fourth alarm at 5:02 A.M. The Southern Muskegon County Tanker Task Force was requested to respond. This task force is comprised of Egelston Township Fire Department Tender 662, a 2,000-gallon water tender; Norton Shores Fire Department Tender 462, a 2,000-gallon water tender; Fruitport Township Fire Department Tender 562, a 2,000-gallon water tender with a 1,750-gpm pump; Ravenna Fire Department Tender 1861, a 3,000-gallon water tender; Moorland Township Fire Department Tender 2161, a 3,000-gallon water tender; and Casnovia Township Fire Department Tender 369, a 3,000-gallon water tender. Norton Shores Fire Department Fire Chief David Purchase was assigned as resource manager and Norton Shores Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief Robert Gagnon as public information officer. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources-Muskegon Office was requested to provide fire suppression on the dunes at 5:04 A.M. as grass and brush were igniting from flying embers.

Holman declared the fire under control at 7:18 A.M. and mop-up, salvage and overhaul operations began. Mutual aid units began being released at 9:56 A.M. The last White Lake equipment left the scene at 1:37 P.M. White Lake returned to the scene on Dec. 2 and Dec. 4 for fires still burning in the basement.



Seventy-seven firefighters operated nine engines, 18 tenders, two aerials, one rescue and one mobile breathing-air compressor at the scene. Firefighters used 565,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire. There were no civilian or firefighter injuries. Weather at the time of the fire was clear and 50 degrees with 20- to 25-mph winds from the west.

An investigation into the origin and cause of the fire was conducted over several days by the White Lake Fire Authority, Muskegon Heights Fire Department, Michigan State Police and insurance company investigators. It was determined that the fire originated in the area of the C side of the building. Investigators determined there was a 15-minute delay in notifying the fire department while occupants tried to extinguish the fire themselves. Damage was estimated at $444,000 to the building and $200,000 to the contents. n