BY GLENN PUIT
KALKASKA — Members of the Shetler family showed kindness to others even as their historic Kalkaska County home burned to the ground.
That’s the word from Kalkaska Fire Department Chief Derek Hogerheide a day after a merciless fire swept through the Shetler’s 101-year-old farm house at the family farm on Tyler Road.
Hogerheide recounted how the Shetlers shuttled supplies to firefighters as they battled the Wednesday blaze.
“They were bringing us food and milk,” Hogerheide said. “They brought us pizzas and chocolate milk … I think they were more concerned about us.”
The house was a complete loss.
The Shetler Dairy Farm operation, including barn and livestock, wasn’t damaged. George Shetler thanked firefighters and others for their efforts to try and save his family’s house.
“All I can do is thank the police, firefighters and community that has shown so much support for us,” Shetler told a Record-Eagle photographer.
The Shetler Dairy Farm is well-known in Kalkaska County and throughout northern Michigan. The operation is a prominent player in the local food movement and boasts the importance of its grass-fed dairy stock. The farm bottles its milk on-site.
Fire broke out Wednesday shortly before 5 p.m. Hogerheide said firefighters found the house fully ablaze upon arrival. At least 30 volunteer firefighters worked throughout the night.
“It was about a six- or seven-hour battle,” Hogerheide said. “We had no injuries, but a lot of exhausted firemen who worked really, really hard. We put close to 100,000 gallons of water on the house, and we had to haul that water from four or five miles away.”
A witness account indicates the fire started in the kitchen.
Hogerheide said the cause isn’t yet known. The home was insured, Hogerheide said.
The Shetler Dairy Farm website indicates the Shetler family bought the farm in 1979. George and Sally Shetler raised their five children on the property.
“Originally one of a dozen dairy farms in the county, there are now only two,” the website states.