The Independence Township Fire Department received a call at 1:30 p.m. Saturday of a boat fire on Whipple Lake.
“It came in as a working boat fire,” said Independence Township Fire Chief Mitch Petterson. “We don’t have a cause on it yet. It’s a boat, so it’s like a car fire, you can’t always pin down a cause on those.”
Prior to firefighter’s arrival, a couple lake residents were on the scene trying to extinguish the fire with their jet skis, Petterson said.
One of those residents was Jason Burns.
“My son and I were going to head out to a party and he looked down the dock and said ‘there goes are plans for the day,’” he said.
His son then pointed to the middle of the lake where a boat was on fire. Without hesitating Burns told his son to run and grab his lifejacket as he tore the cover off his standup jet ski. He hopped on the jet ski and headed towards the boat with a wide-open throttle, saying he was traveling about 50 miles per hour.
“Everybody was getting away from it and I went right to it,” he added. “It was engulfed in flames.”
Having been a professional freestyle jet-skier for the past 20 years, Burns said he knew exactly what he was going to do to put the fire out. He performed the trick known as “The Fountain.”
“It’s where you spin around, sit on the hood of the jet ski and rock it back and the pump comes out of the water,” he explained. “It’s just like having a fire-hose.”
Burns said once he was in position he had the fire out in under a minute.
“It went from billowing black smoke to a brown misty smoke,” he said.
Afterwards, he grabbed his sit-down jet skit, a Sea-Doo with a supercharge engine and 265 horsepower and was able to tow the boat to the shore where Independence Township Fire Department was ready to take over.
“About five minutes after I towed it back to shore, it ignited in flames and the fire department put foam on it,” Burns said.
Petterson said his guys were ready when the boat came to shore and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Marine Division was also there to assist.
With boat fires, depending on where they are at, Petterson said they get as close to the shore line as they can with their trucks. They did have a boat on its way.
“Typically, we’ll put our boat in the water. If it’s not there for whatever reason, we’ll get on someone else’s boat, and let them take us out with a few extinguishers. Then, do our best to extinguish it,” he added. “It’s not unusual for us to try and get the boat to shore to finish the extinguishment. That’s exactly what happened that day, they put a lot of it out with the jet skis.”
Petterson said they have a boat fire incident once every five or six years.
“We’re typically not in the boat fire business, but every once in awhile we do get those rare incidents.”
Burns said when he responded to the incident, he wasn’t thinking about himself just about the lake.
“One drop of oil in the water (would have) spread out to be like a 100 square-feet and we would have had a serious issue,” he said.
Burns added they had the water tested and there is no leakage of oil. He described putting the fire out and towing it to shore as a great feeling, but the best part was his son watching f
rom afar. “When I got back to shore he said, ‘Dad you’re a hero,’” Burns added. “That was all worth it.”
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In addition to Saturday, Petterson said they received a call Monday night between 5:30 to 6 p.m. for a house fire on Deer Lake Road between White Lake and Dixie Highway.
“It was a pretty significant loss,” he added.
Petterson said nobody was home at the time, but a neighbor saw it and called it in
“When our guys got there it was heavily involved. It was in the attached garage extending into the house, but we got the fire knocked down pretty quick. We had help from Brandon, Waterford and Springfield fire departments,” he said. “We were out there until about 10 p.m. No injuries, no fault, we got investigators out there working today.”