Elmira, MI – A landlord working on a water heater sustained burns to his face in an explosion and fire that damaged a home in Charlevoix County’s Hudson Township Tuesday.

Hudson Township Fire Chief Shawn Bauman said firefighters were called to the Vincent Mako residence at 9796 Huffman Lake Road at 11:45 a.m. when tenants in the house called 9-1-1 reporting an explosion that had just occurred at the home.

The landlord, Ronald Doe, 38, of Petoskey, was transported to Northern Michigan Regional Hospital by Boyne City ambulance crews where he was treated for his injuries and transferred to the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor where he was listed in fair condition today, Wednesday.

Bauman said the tenants reported that they had been having problems with the water heater and had called Doe about the problem. He said Doe reported that he had gone into the room in the basement where the water heater is located, noticed the pilot light was out on the water heater and, has he kneeled down, there was an explosion.

Bauman guessed that a spark — perhaps from a well pump or some other motor — may have ignited the propane. Bauman further theorized, based on the fact that his clothes were not burned, Doe’s burns may have been scalds from the hot water tank rupturing in the explosion.

Bauman said Mako reported he was in a neighboring room when the explosion took place and that he had to kick the door open to get Doe out of the room. Mako was not injured in the fire.

The home is located across the road from the Huffman Lake public access site, not far from the Charlevoix-Otsego County line. Fire crews used water drawn directly from the lake to fight the fire.

Bauman said the first firefighter on the scene was assistant chief Don Sevenski who, using a hose line from the department engine, was able to knock down much of the fire on his own from outside the building.

Hudson Township fire officials called in help from neighboring Elmira and Vanderbilt fire departments for additional manpower. With temperatures in the 80s, the heat took its toll on fire crews working to put out the fire. A canteen from the Salvation Army responded to the scene to provide refreshments to fire crews, who were on the scene until about 4 p.m.

Bauman said the fire caused extensive damage to the home, including the collapse of the kitchen into the basement.

Mako did have renter’s insurance and Doe had insurance on the home, Bauman said.

Bauman said he was meeting with a Michigan State Fire Investigation Unit investigator at the site at press time today looking further into the cause of the fire.

Bauman noted that Tuesday’s fire was the first full structure fire for the department’s newest engine, which has been in service almost a year.

He noted that the compressed-air-foam system on the truck is what allowed Sevenski to knock much of the fire down on his own before other help arrived. Bauman said fire crews used about 1,800 gallons of water to fight the fire and four gallons of foam. He estimated it would likely have taken three times as much water without the foam system.