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Sheriff: Calumet fire being investigated as crime

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Not much remains standing of the 108 to 120 block of Fifth Street in Calumet after Friday night’s fire. Following 911 calls at approximately 10:49 p.m. Friday, the fire was not cleared until about 10:30 a.m. Saturday.

CALUMET — The fire that destroyed three buildings in downtown Calumet overnight Saturday is being investigated as a crime.

As of Sunday afternoon, the cause of the fire is still undetermined, said Calumet Fire Chief Jeff Kalcich and Houghton County Deputy Tyler Harju. They will be on scene Monday with the Michigan State Police Fire Marshal and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which are assisting the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office with the investigation.

The area of the fire was taped off by police. People caught trespassing or taking items can be prosecuted, the sheriff’s office said.

In a Facebook post, Keweenaw Coffee Works, which is across the street from the site of the fire, reported multiple people crossing the police tape and stealing bricks.

Anyone who was on or near the 100 block of Fifth Street at 10:45 p.m. Friday and saw or heard anything suspicious is asked to contact the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page or at 482-0055.

The buildings from 108 to 120 Fifth Street were declared a total loss after the fire, which was reported in multiple 911 calls about 10:49 p.m. Friday.

“The wind definitely didn’t help,” Kalcich said. “We started having some problems with water, that’s why we started trucking water in. The buildings are so close together. Once it started, there wasn’t much to stop it.”

Twelve local fire departments responded to the fire. Calumet cleared the scene about 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Kalcich said.

Three Calumet firefighters were taken to Aspirus Keweenaw Hospital, where they were treated and released. One was treated for smoke inhalation; the other two had suffered cuts from broken glass, Kalcich said.

“They all got treated and released, and they all went back to fighting the fire,” he said.

Kalcich called it the worst fire he’d seen in 30 years as a firefighter.

“It’s hard to lose any building, and to lose three of them is pretty tough,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse, but I was hoping for a lot better.”

An estimated 20 to 30 residents were displaced by the fire. The American Red Cross set up in the Calumet Colosseum as a staging area.

Pigs N’ Heat is assisting in the aid for displaced people, including putting them up at the AmericInn, Harju said. The Salvation Army also lodged victims and provided assistance on scene, including providing food to firefighters with donations from Econo Foods, BP of Calumet and McDonald’s, said director Pete Mackin.

Assisting the Houghton County Sheriff’s Office and local fire departments were Michigan State Police Calumet Post, Keweenaw County Sheriff’s Office, Laurium Village Police Department, Mercy EMS, B&B Contracting, UPPCO and Semco.

Affected residents can also call the Red Cross at 800-236-8680 for help with relief services.

All proceeds from the opening of the roller rink at the Gipp Arena Saturday in Laurium went to those affected by the fire. Donations were also accepted.

The AmericInn in Calumet is also collecting for victims of the fire, it announced on its Facebook page. A list of needed clothes and sizes can be found at the AmericInn’s Facebook page. People should contact Dianne St. Amour at (906) 337-6463 to see what items may still be needed. The AmericInn is asking for physical donations to be brought to the Salvation Army in Hancock; due to the outpouring of support from the community, they have no more space.

The Salvation Army in Hancock is accepting both financial and material donations for people displaced by the fire, the Village of Calumet said on its Facebook page. Financial donations should be sent to the Salvation Army (note Calumet Fire Assistance) and can be sent to or dropped off at the Salvation Army at 408 Ravine St. in Hancock or at the AmericInn at 56925 S. 6th St. in Calumet. Both organizations are coordinating with the Red Cross to address the long- and short-term needs of the displaced.

Baby E’s BBQ dropped off nearly 500 pounds of meats, a case of ribs, and buns and rolls at the Salvation Army for victims and volunteers, it said on its Facebook page.

Keweenaw Coffee Works set up a tip jar on its website to keep its staffed employed during the closure. It estimates it will be closed for seven to 10 days, pending the resolution of the state fire marshal investigation.

The villages of Calumet and Laurium were under an advisory to boil water for drinking or cooking for three to five minutes prior to use, the Village of Calumet said in a Facebook post Saturday. The advisory was expected to last until approximately noon Sunday.

To address the cleanup and potential rebuilding of the sites, the Calumet Village Council will hold a special meeting 5 p.m. Monday in the Calumet Theatre Ballroom, the village said on its Facebook page. Business owners and others affected are encouraged to attend in person or via phone at 1 (872) 240-3311 with access code 641-737-189. They are also invited to send comments via email to manager@villageofcalumet.com.

“The loss of 3 buildings in our historic district has been heartbreaking and it’s hard to imagine the 100 Block without them,” the Village of Calumet said on its Facebook page. “However, we hope to see this loss as an opportunity for redevelopment. The economic development team in our community has already been working with property owners on assisting in the process of clean up and potential rebuilding or redevelopment of the sites.”

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