BUCKLEY — A "suspicious" fire that seriously injured a Mayfield Township woman erupted one day after authorities investigated the deaths of six horses on her property.
Rescue workers pulled the woman, 57, from a burning residence at 4680 Miller Road on Tuesday evening. Grand Traverse County Sheriff Tom Bensley said the woman remains at Munson Medical Center and investigators are sorting through the rubble to find what caused the fire.
Detectives aren't ruling out a connection between the fire and the deaths of six horses, including two miniature horses, that drew a sheriff's deputy and county animal control officers to the property on Monday.
"That's why the fire is a little suspicious. We believe there may be some mental health issues involved," Bensley said.
Grand Traverse Rural Fire Department Chief Theo Weber said firefighters from three different departments arrived to the fire at 3:40 p.m. He said the single-story ranch house had extensive damage and firefighters finally extinguished the fire after five hours.
"I would estimate it was probably a total loss," Weber said.
Michigan Secretary of State records show Kathy Jacobs, 57, lived at the property. Jill Fritz, director of Michigan's Humane Society branch, said she received a tip Sunday from someone who suspected animal hoarding on the property and named Jacobs as the resident.
“He indicated he knew of this situation where animals were, possibly dead animals, on this farm and recommended I call authorities,” Fritz said.
Miniature horses are harder to neglect than full-sized horses, animal experts said.
“They’re very low maintenance and they get by on a very small amount of hay and feed,” said Nancy Hubbard, Horse North Rescue and Placement's secretary and treasurer. “If they’re starving to death, they’re just giving them nothing.”
Tom Buss, the county's director of environmental health, said animal control officers went to the property to investigate a report of potential animal neglect or abuse. Bensley said county animal control officials are working with the state department of agriculture to ascertain why the horses died.
"We don't know a definitive cause of death," Bensley said.