On Monday, May 21, the Pentwater Fire Department responded to a report of a structure fire with flames showing at the Nickerson located at 262 W. Lowell St, Pentwater. The alarm came in at 6:25 am and there was heavy smoke and fire showing on the first and second floors as well as the attic when firefighters first
checked onscene. "We were challenged from the very start", stated Assistant Chief Ray Hasil. "In addition to the three floors burning, we were dealing with a 2" gas line rupture on the north side, and live wires down on the east side, where most of the fire was at the start.".
Compounding firefighting efforts was low hydrant pressure from the water system and difficulties by DTE in getting gas turned off. "The water tower has been empty for about a week for a 30 day re-painting project. There is a temporary system in place but it doesn't supply our normal water outputs. Our DPW did a great job with boosting well pump pressure but there was only so much they could do. DTE had problems getting the gas shut off and needed the DPW's backhoe to get it shut down."
It is believed that the unoccupied building was burning 10-20 minutes before it was noticed. "I ran up the hill to see what we had. It looked to me that 25% of the first and second floors were fully evolved in fire, as well as 100% of the attic." Over 155,000 gallons of water were needed to extinguish the fire.
Mutual aid was initiated early into the incident for assistance from other area departments. Assistance was provided by Hart, Shelby, Crystal, Riverton, and Pere Marquette fire departments. "Pere Marquette’s aerial really came through in finishing off the fire. There was so much interior instability that we had a hard time getting to where the fire was." One Pentwater firefighter complaining of chest pain was transported to Memorial Medical in Ludington by Oceana EMS for medical evaluation and was later treated and released.
The bulk of the fire investigation has been completed by the Oceana County Fire Investigation Team. Although an exact cause has not been established, it has been determined that the fire originated in the northeast corner of the second floor, believed to be the Inn's 'Victorian' room. The cause continues to be investigated but is currently undetermined. Arson has not been ruled out, but the focus of the investigation is not criminal at this time.
The structure was a total loss. Loss estimates are around $1,000,000.
Other agencies that assisted include Pentwater DPW, Pentwater Police Department, Oceana County Sheriff Department, Red Cross, and Oceana County Fire Investigation Team. Many local businesses supplied food and refreshments for firefighters.