Saginaw, MI – The explosion first caught the attention of an unidentified police officer Saturday evening as he drove through Maple Grove on his way to work in New Lothrop.

Then, racing through a wall of flames, came a barefoot man, cradling a small child in his arms as he escaped the blaze that devoured the farm house at Lincoln and Ditch.

”I can’t tell you who he was,” said Maple Grove Fire Chief Tom W. Quaderer said of the officer. ”But he was on the scene right away, calling 911 and getting the man and his child to safety.”

Freezing winds, icy roads and a search for water didn’t make it easy for Maple Grove firefighters as dispatchers talked neighboring fire departments along a maze of back roads as they raced tens of thousands of gallons to the scene.

It was the natural gas leak, though, that ”knocked things out” before crews arrived, Quaderer said.

”The house was completely engulfed, the flames fed by the gas. We shut the gas off at the meter, and Consumers Energy was great with the electricity, but it was a blow-out from the beginning.”

Albee Township Fire Chief Thomas Gerding sent a 3,000-gallon tanker to Saturday’s blaze, he said, and other units came in from Montrose and New Lothrop. Saginaw County road crews arrived, too, to salt the streets for arriving firefighters, Quaderer said.

”What we heard is that the explosion woke the man up, and he grabbed the baby and ran,” he said. ”They were safe, but the house, it’s a total loss. I don’t have a damage estimate yet, but it’s gone.”