Air conditioner suspected in house fire

September 23, 2018

CLINTON TWP. — A fire that started in the basement and did major damage to a home along U.S. 421 on Sept. 17 may have started from a faulty air conditioner, according to authorities.

The fire apparently started about 7:45 a.m. in the basement of a home at 8652 S. U.S. 421 – about five miles south of Westville in the Haskell Heights subdivision – according to the La Porte County Sheriff’s Department.

The first officer arrived on the scene to find the Cass-Clinton Volunteer Fire Department already on the scene and smoke coming from the door of the home, according to a police report.

The owner of the home, a 75-year-old man, told police he was asleep when the fire started, but woke up when his dog started barking. He awoke to find the home filled with smoke, but told police he did not see any flames.

The homeowner and the dog got out of the home safely, then went to a neighbor’s home to call 911, police said.

Cass-Clinton Fire Chief Larry Rust told police he believed the smoke was caused by the downstairs window air conditioner malfunctioning, and he did not see anything suspicious.

Also responding to the scene for mutual aid were the Westville Community Volunteer Fire Department and firefighters from Hanna, Lacrosse, and Noble and Washington townships. The blaze was extinguished and firefighters sprayed neighboring homes and garages to keep the fire from spreading.

It did major damage to the inside and the rear of the home, with damage estimated at over $40,000.

Because of the home’s proximity to the highway, firefighting equipment was staged along U.S. 421, forcing a complete shutdown of the highway for about four hours, according to the sheriff’s department.

U.S. 421 was closed between U.S. 6 and U.S. 30 from about 8 a.m. until about noon.

La Porte County EMS responded to the scene for standby to check on firefighters, according to administrator Andrew McGuire, who said no injuries were reported from the fire or the firefighting effort.

—From staff reports

Update hourly