Blaze destroys home

A fire that might have started in a garage Sunday destroyed a ranch home on Knollwood Drive near Clifty Creek Elementary School.

Three adults and three children escaped the fire at 842 Knollwood Drive without injury, said Columbus Township Fire Chief Rodney Ferrenburg.

Identities of the homeowner and occupants were to be released later, he said, as the department’s public information officer was fighting the fire and had not completed reports about the incident.

Heavy smoke billowed over the cul-de-sac as firefighters worked on all sides of the one story brick and frame house, and a charred camper and pickup truck could be seen in the home’s driveway.

Neighbors and some people who were just passing by stood in driveways and yards of nearby houses watching the firefighters work.

Fire trucks lined Knollwood and yellow and red fire hoses snaked across the yards up to the house.

Firefighters were carrying crates of bottled water to those fighting the fire, who were able to take breaks when their air tank alarms signaled the tanks were empty and needed to be replaced.

Columbus Township Fire Department Capt. Doug Hollenbeck was the first firefighter at the scene as he lives about four houses down from the home.

Hollenbeck said the home’s attached garage was fully engulfed as he approached the driveway, and the rest of the home already was showing flames.

By radio, he asked for more help and let firefighters know that there were no fire hydrants, but water was available at the nearby elementary school.

When firefighters arrived, they immediately began protecting the home next door, 852 Knollwood Drive, as the wind was blowing flames and heat at the side of the house, which had melted the siding.

That home’s owners, Jim and Julie Humphrey, were not there when their neighbor’s house caught fire and received a call to come home.

Hollenbeck said firefighters received a gift when the wind changed direction away from the Humphreys’ home, saving it from further damage.

“That must have been when I was in the car praying,” Julie Humphrey said.

“Another five minutes and we would have had fire on their house,” Hollenbeck said.

The house on the other side, 832 Knollwood Drive, was not damaged, Ferrenburg said.

As firefighters worked to put out the fire, several propane tanks at the rear of 842 Knollwood and possibly in the camper exploded, along with what was believed to be at least one gas can in the garage, Hollenbeck said.

The American Red Cross was called in to assist the family, and an ambulance was on standby near the fire trucks.

Firefighters from Columbus Township, Clay Township, Elizabethtown, Jonesville, Wayne Township and Columbus city firefighters all responded to the scene.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.