Three Firefighters Injured In Michigan Trailer Park Fire

Firefighters James Nelson and Robert Duke suffered first- and second-degree burns on their necks and wrists after intense heat from the fire seeped though their protective gear.


Three firefighters are recovering from injuries they suffered while fighting a blaze that gutted a mobile home in Sterling Heights.

Firefighters James Nelson and Robert Duke suffered first- and second-degree burns on their necks and wrists after intense heat from the fire seeped though their protective gear. Nelson's ears were also burned.

No one living in the single-wide home on Brixham Court was injured in the March 15 fire. The home was located in the Rudgate Manor mobile home park on 18 Mile Road.

Another firefighter, Kelly Burgan, cut his head on a wrench he was using to hook a hose up to a fire hydrant.

All three men were taken to William Beaumont Hospital in Troy, where they were treated and released the same day. Burgan needed five stitches.

Sterling Heights Fire Battalion Chief Dave Poterek said the fire started after the homeowner threw a spent cigarette into a plastic-lined trash can in the kitchen. It was still hot and ignited the other garbage sometime after the owner and his 2 1/2 -year-old granddaughter left at 9 a.m.

The fire department was called to the scene at 10 a.m. Nelson and Duke were among the first firefighters to enter the home, but the heat forced them back outside.

"They were pushed out by high heat, smoke and flames," Poterek said. "There was a nice wind blowing on the side where the fire broke out. It pushed heat and smoke to the firefighters as they came in through the door."

Firefighters battled the rest of the blaze from the outside, ripping off panels of siding to get better access.

Poterek said the heat was so extraordinary that the glass on the oven door melted. So did part of a wall-mounted fire extinguisher.

Fire Marshall Tom Kropf said investigators also found melted copper and aluminum inside the home, indicating that the temperature reached at least 1,200 degrees.

The fire left the house a charred shell. It caused a total of $50,000 in damages.

The homeowner is staying with relatives.

"It's one of the older trailers, and the fire runs through them like you've never seen," Fire Chief John Childs said.