Traverse City Record-Eagle

October 23, 2013

Elk Rapids Police: Fire case 'confusing'


---- — ELK RAPIDS — Village police continue investigating the puzzling circumstances behind a fire that destroyed two cars and damaged a third in an Elk Rapids parking lot.

The blaze occurred Saturday about 1 a.m. in a municipal parking lot on Noble Street. Village police Chief Tom Emerson said investigators initially suspected arson, but now lean toward an accidental origin after locating two Elk Rapids men who admitted being inside one of cars when the fire started.

“It’s kind of a confusing situation,” he said. “... After speaking with them and looking at the scene, we’re fairly confident it’s not an arson fire. But there are some extenuating circumstances.”

Elk Rapids police and fire officials won’t release details on what “extenuating circumstances” caused the fire. Village fire Chief Pete Van Den Berg said the fire completely consumed a Dodge Intrepid and Chevrolet Impala and damaged a third passenger car.

Emerson said one vehicle belonged to a girlfriend of one of the men, who were tracked down to a “condo on the edge of town” about 12 hours after the fire. He said both men received burns to their arms and faces, but hadn’t sought medical treatment.

“I’m not really sure (why not); I think they were scared,” he said. “One guy had warrants out for his arrest.”

Medical personnel sent the men to a Grand Rapids hospital for burn treatment.

Van Den Berg said more investigation is needed before authorities determine the fire’s cause. Emerson said the two men are “victims” rather than “suspects.”

“Hopefully, we can get some of this resolved soon,” Emerson said.