Deputies save man, dogs after gas explosion

GERARD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Two off-duty Branch County sheriff’s deputies are being credited with pulling a man from a house fire after an explosion.

It happened around noon Monday near the intersection of Bidwell and Marshall roads in Gerard Township, north of Coldwater. Fire officials say there was a gas explosion — they found a severed gas line leading to the stove — but they are not sure what sparked it.

An explosion and fire occurred at this house near Bidwell and Marshall roads in Girard Township in Branch County, March 17, 2014. (photo courtesy AM 1590 WTVB Coldwater)
(Photo courtesy AM 1590 WTVB Coldwater)

Deputies Allen Fleming and Greg Ware, who are friends as well as coworkers, were off-duty Monday when they happened to drive by the residence while doing farm chores.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Fleming said.

They saw a wall of the home had been blown open and was lying on the ground.

“When we come by … there’s some smoke coming out of the back of the house and I was like, ‘Go back, go back, go back,’” Fleming recalled.

Then the pair saw the homeowner, apparently in shock, standing in his home trying to use the phone. They went into the still-burning building to get him.

“You could feel the heat on the floor coming up from underneath and you could feel the heat coming up your pant legs,” Ware said.

Their coats and the soles of their boots were melting from the heat.

But the homeowner didn’t want to go.

“He started handing us burning stuff, saying, ‘I need to get this stuff out of here.’ And I was like, ‘Come on, we’ve got to go,’” Fleming said.

“I had my arm around him and I said, “Come on, we’ve go to get out of here.’ And he still didn’t want to leave, so I kind of scooped him up and brought him to the edge right over here and I set him on the ground, and that’s when you [Fleming] were grabbing the dogs,” Ware said.

“There was a gentleman standing right here and he was yelling at us, ‘You guys got to get out of there.’ And I said, ‘You just grab him,’ and I grabbed a handful of dogs,” Fleming added.

The homeowner walked away with barely a scratch. His three dogs were all accounted for.

Branch County Sheriff's Deputies Greg Ware (left) and Allen Fleming (right) return to the home where they rescued a man and his dogs after an explosion. (March 19, 2014)Wednesday, debris was still strewn about the property and yellow caution tape was still up when Fleming and Ware returned to the site. Half of the structure was blackened and burned out.

“I didn’t think it was this bad,” Ware said.

“I feel bad for the guy,” Fleming said. “He lost everything. Not his life, but he definitely lost everything else.”

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