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Jason Osborne, a Farms fire division specialist, caps a nozzle on one of the departmentís two fire trucks. photo by Brad Lindberg.

January 10, 2013
GROSSE POINTE FARMS — Public safety officers double-teamed a garage fire mid-afternoon Sunday, Jan. 6.

"Think of all the things people have in their garage: gasoline, propane tanks, all kinds of plastics and cars to provide extra fuel for a fire," said PSO Tom Shimko, a Grosse Pointe Farms fire inspector.

The fire, in an attached, two-car garage on De Petris Way near Grosse Pointe Boulevard, grew from fireplace embers discarded with holiday tree cuttings in a plastic trash can.

"The homeowner had a fire in the fireplace the night before," said Sgt. John Bruno, incident commander. "He was emptying his fireplace and had some pieces of Christmas tree and garbage in the garage."

"He said he threw some snow in, too," Shimko said.

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Nevertheless, ashes can mask embers, which retain combustible heat longer than many people realize.

"Christmas trees go off like gasoline," Bruno said.

The residents backed their cars out of the garage and tried to water down the fire.

They called public safety headquarters for help at 2:54 p.m., virtually when the day shift and afternoon shifts were coming and going.

PSO Traci Johnson, working days, was in street clothes ready to go home when the alarm sounded.

She was among nine officers and fire specialists responding in squad cars and two fire trucks. Each cruiser has a chemical fire extinguisher in the trunk.

"Basically, we had 1 1/2 shifts of people here," said PSO Vince Finn, first on scene with Shimko in separate cruisers.

They encountered fire melting two plastic trash bins.

"Flames showered the cabinets," Shimko said. "Wall plates melted nearby. Heat built up."

"Tom and I dumped two cans of dry chemical on the fire to slow its growth, then backed out and waited for everybody else," Finn said.

Officers sprayed the area with water from a fire truck's on-board tank.

Stubborn embers needed another dose of drychem after officers hauled charred debris from the garage to the driveway.

Members of the road patrol began clearing the scene at 3:20 p.m. Other officers remained to roll up a fire hose and stow equipment.

Bruno advised homeowners to keep Christmas trees, garland and clippings away from heat.

"Get them out of the house as soon as possible," he said.

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