Cheboygan, WI — On Wednesday afternoon, three local fire departments worked together to put out a fire at Rocheleau Meats on Townline Road, in Inverness Township, just outside the City of Cheboygan.
Shortly after 4:30 p.m. on July 22, the Inverness Fire Department was dispatched to an explosion that had occurred at the building. The building was on fire, and it was suspected that the cause was a possible propane leak. Everyone had made it out of the building safely.
Due to the way the building was constructed, there were several sub roofs and attic areas, which created a problem for the firefighters. They could see smoke, but no fire, and had to search the various areas to find where it was burning in order to put it out.
“It was tough,” said Inverness Fire Chief Rob Socha. “When I heard the call, I knew. I called mutual aid from the city, for manpower, and Alverno for water, right away, because I knew with that building, we were going to have a tough time. And sure enough, we had a tough time.”
There were shingled roofs underneath the metal roof, which the firefighters had to cut through in order to extinguish the fire. They were able to find the fire in one of the attic areas. One of the cooler systems was underneath where the fire was, which presented another challenge to the crews. The crews weren’t able to get to the fire from the inside of the building, so they had to try to fight the fire from the roof.
Crews were able to extinguish the blaze and were also able to save a lot of the merchandise in the meat processing portion of the business, stored in the freezers, as well as the cash drawer and the bookkeeping documents.
“And there were no injuries, with the help,” said Socha. “We couldn’t have ever done it ourselves. The mutual aid is so important, so important. They did a great job.”
Some of the beef that had been hanging in the business, waiting to be processed, was lost in the fire. However, meat that had already been processed and was in the freezers was able to be saved.
“All in all, for what we had, it turned out really well,” said Socha.
There was damage to the building, specifically in the basement and the roof.
Socha said the firefighters were able to see where there was an explosion, so there had to have been a propane leak. However, it is not certain where it was leaking, or what was leaking, to cause the explosion. The gas most likely ignited from the pilot light of one of the water heaters in the basement of the structure, causing the explosion. However, the exact cause of the fire is not determined at this time.
“There had to have been some gas in the building for an explosion to happen,” said Socha.
It got very hot in the basement of the building, causing some things to melt. There was some burning that took place, but no charring. The fire then moved into the first floor of the building and into the attic area.
“That’s where the main part of the fire was,” said Socha.
The fire departments were also assisted on the scene by deputies from the Cheboygan County Sheriff’s Department, officers with the Cheboygan Department of Public Safety and Cheboygan Life Support Systems ambulance.
Several firefighters from the Inverness Fire Department returned to Rocheleau Meats Thursday morning to make sure there were no more hot spots that needed to be put out.