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Fire victim 'just happy nobody got hurt'

Cary Ashby • Updated Feb 27, 2018 at 8:21 PM

COLLINS — Zach and Calena Pippert and their two children are staying with family members after a fire gutted their house early Tuesday morning.

“Nobody was here luckily,” said Calena Pippert, whose uncle notified her about the fire. “Somebody called his employer and got in touch with him in Michigan.”

Pippert arrived at the house about 7 a.m. When she came from the south, she said she couldn’t see much damage from that perspective. But it was a different story seeing the front of the two-story house.

“It was shocking,” Pippert said. “It was just overwhelming.”

Her husband, who was working construction in Michigan, arrived about 9 a.m. They said fire trucks from Townsend Township, Norwalk and Berlin Township lined Hartland Center Road for about an eighth of a mile, from Crandall Road to the next house. The firefighters used a portable pool as they fought the blaze.

The Pipperts had lived in their insured house at 3108 Hartland Center Road, Collins, for eight years. It was built in the 1800s and had working smoke detectors.

“The fire marshal was out. They think it was either (the) wood burner or electrical,” Calena Pippert said.

Her husband agreed, saying firefighters told the couple the likely cause was a the wood burner, the primary source of heat for the home. Calena Pippert said they were told it likely was “smoldering for hours” before the actual fire started.

“The main fire was in the dining room and kitchen before it went up to the attic,” she added.

Norwalk firefighters were called for mutual aid at 5:41 a.m. and arrived 13 minutes later. Their report indicates the blaze was under control at 6:26 and the last firefighter left the scene at 7:22.

The Norwalk crew brought 10 firefighters in two pumpers, a tanker and the chief’s vehicle.

The Huron County Sheriff’s Office handled traffic control at the scene. Also there was Citzens Ambulance. The nine-member Townsend Township crew returned to the station about 12:30 p.m.

Lt. Keith Wyatt, the interim chief, said he hasn’t received an official report from the state fire marshal’s office, but added his crew is “leaning toward” the wood burner or an electrical problem as the possible cause.

The Pipperts, who were treated to a free lunch Tuesday at Gilhuly’s on 61 in Berlin Heights, said their children are glad to know their outside cats are OK. One cat was seen walking in the yard early Tuesday afternoon.

“We’re just happy nobody got hurt,” said Zach Pippert, who made sure he shook the hands of as many firefighters as possible. “We thank all the fire departments for their service.”

“A big thank-you to everyone. They were very kind, very nice,” his wife added.

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