by Joel Strottrup
A Little Elk Lake house known by many as “the castle” burned in an early morning fire Friday, Jan. 11.
Firefighters from Princeton, Baldwin Township and Zimmerman were called to 28299 144th St. in Blue Hill Township at about 5:15 a.m. Jan. 11.
Authorities believe the home sits on the same lot as another very large house that burned in 1978 or 1979.
The 6,000-square-foot home with 10 bedrooms and six bathrooms appears to be a total loss, according to Princeton Fire Chief Jim Roxbury.
The home most recently has been marketed as a vacation lodge rental and a retreat. It was renting for $800 per night, according to the vacation rental website homeaway.com. According to the website, the home slept up to 30 people. While the home was unoccupied at the time of the fire, Roxbury received information suggesting that the home had been used a few days prior.
“The cause of the fire is undetermined,” said Roxbury, who noted that fire crews were on scene for 12 hours.
“We’re working closely with the state fire marshal and we’re checking some possibilities,” Roxbury said.
Roxbury said that because of the value of the property and the fact that insurance companies are likely to be involved, not much will be said about the cause of the fire until the fire marshal has a definite answer.
“My guess is that everyone is going to be cautious,” he said.
The first call reporting the fire came into the Baldwin Fire Department at about 5:15 a.m. A Zimmerman firefighter was first on the scene. Baldwin had the first truck on the scene. Princeton, called in at 5:22, was the last to arrive.
When Roxbury arrived on scene the fire was well on its way to being devastating.
“The house was structurally still standing but the first and second floors were heavily involved in fire,” he said.
“When firefighters tried to enter the house, part of the first floor collapsed into the basement,” Roxbury said.
Firefighters were on the scene from shortly after 5 a.m. and then into the evening. The fire departments rotated firefighters in and out of duty to keep men fresh and to accommodate the work schedules of the firefighters, most of whom are volunteers.
“It’s still standing. It’s structurally standing. But most likely it’s a total loss,” Roxbury said.