Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Tuesday

May 13, 2014

Arson ruled out in Grant Township fire

BUCKLEY — Fire investigators ruled out arson in a Grant Township farmhouse blaze from which authorities pulled a man's body, but they couldn't find what exactly kindled the fire.

Bill Smith, a state fire marshal from Gaylord, said the May 8 fire left the Ramsay Road farmhouse in such a ruined condition that pinpointing an exact cause is unlikely.

"The one thing we are sure about is it's not arson," he said.

Smith and investigators from the Grand Traverse County Sheriff's Department and an insurance company sifted through the house's debris on Monday. They ruled the fire had an "undetermined" cause.

Fire investigations can rule a fire had one of four causes -- arson, natural, accidental or undetermined. Smith said in this case investigators ruled out criminal activity but couldn't say with certainty what sparked the fire, whether an electrical problem, human error or otherwise.

"We can't say for sure," he said. "Anything else would be guessing and we can't be guessing."

Investigators initially considered the fire suspicious because of an unexplained Nov. 25 blaze that burned a pole barn on the same property.

Sheriff's Capt. Chris Clark confirmed the body found in the house's debris belonged to William Rackow, 76, but said investigators still don't know the cause of death.

"We'll wait for the forensic pathologist report to come back," he said.

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