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News and quick-hit commentary from around mid-Michigan ... from the Morning Sun.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Firefighters train to battle propane blazes

Many mid-Michigan firefighters trained Wednesday in St. Louis in the art and the science of battling propane fires.

Watch the video, and watch closely what the firefighter has to do to put out the fire -- it's near the end:

Propane is, after all, supposed to burn. It's become ubiquitous as a home heating fuel in rural areas, to power barbecue grills, in many agricultural applications and elsewhere. But if something goes bad, the fire can be spectacular and dangerous.

There's a reason Hollywood special-effects efforts use propane to create filmed fireballs. It burns with a distinctive yellow flame and will keep burning until the fuel's gone or turned off.

According to the experts at the Michigan Propane Gas Association, which conducted the training, that's the key to fighting a propane fire. Firefighters have to find a way to cut off the fuel, and that requires getting close to the source.

While streams of water play on the flaming tank -- the tank is simulated, the flames are very real and very hot -- a team approaches behind a cooling spray of water.

The firefighters don't rush.

There's a reason firefighters wear protective clothing, air tanks and heavy gloves.

To get to the valve, a firefighter opens the lid on the simulated 500-gallon pig ...

... and while a protective spray of water covers him, the tank and the team, he turns the valve to shut off the propane -- and the fire.
(Photos by Andrew Ranzenberger)

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

PEAK video

Here is a little video story about the Mt. Pleasant PEAK program's Community Service Day.

Acoupel of weeks ago, the Morning Sun sent me to a 4 day training session to learn how to use our nnew, state-of-the art high def. video camera and profesional editing software.

It's so fancy, and I used it to make this video, my very first uploaded movie EVER.

Much much more to come from the MS in the new media genre...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Devastation at Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella resident Wayne Bauer, center, had lived in the simple mobile home on the banks of the Chippewa River since 1974. Then Wednesday, powerful winds toppled several once-stately oak trees on the home, practically splitting it in half.

Winds estimated at more than 70 mph -- hurricane-force winds -- snapped off or uprooted hundreds of decades-old trees in the western Isabella County town.

Nathan Smith had just rented this three-bedroom, two-bath home for his family. The family hadn't even really moved in yet, when his wife went into labor for their fourth child, and they came home from the hospital to find trees on the roof. The home was still inhabitable, but at least 30 houses in Lake Isabella were not.

A poplar blown over by the intense winds leans on a home on Barcelona Drive.

Two workmen were working inside the as-yet-unnamed strip mall under construction on Coldwater Road when the wind blew in the north wall. They took cover on the floor until the storm had passed.

Weather experts say the storm was something called a "microburst," intense straight-line winds. A spinning tornado would have thrown debris in all directions, but the fallen trees at Lake Isabella told the story -- they fell largely in the same direction, northeast to southwest, the same direction the storm was moving.

After the storm, tree-clearing crews first concentrated on opening up blocked streets.

A weekend resident from Westland spent his vacation carving up one of several trees in his yard blown over the by the wind.

A crew from Bohn Tree Trimming of Weidman clears brush that damaged a home near Madrid and Barcelona in Lake Isabella.

Just imagine what it took to do this along the lakefront. (Top nine photos by Mark Ranzenberger; bottom photo courtesy Village of Lake Isabella)

Monday, July 16, 2007

This little piggie ...

The Gratiot County Fair for Youth is under way in Alma this week, and it began in earnest with the pig scramble.

If you've never seen a greased-pig competition -- watch it now!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

HazMat incident in Remus

An occasional, powerful scent of ammonia spread across the town of Remus Sunday night after a line carrying the corrosive chemical ruptured inside the Leprino Foods cheese plant. The plant's production manager explained that the hazardous chemical is used in the cheese factory as a refrigerant -- the same way it's been used in commercial refrigeration systems for more than a century. Much of the leak was contained inside the factory, but some of the vapors were vented to the outside, where firefighters neutralized the chemical with a massive spray of water.

No one was hurt, but state highway M-66 was closed through the Mecosta County community. The BP station adjacent to the plant was shut while firefighters in breathing apparatus sprayed massive amounts of water on the plant and the ammonia leaking from inside.

A hazardous materials team
from Leprino foods was on
the scene to start the cleanup
Sunday night. Authorities said
they were concerned about the
effect the hundreds of
thousands of gallons of
ammonia-tainted water headed
for the town's sewer system.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Flags at half-staff Friday

Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm has ordered U.S. flags throughout the state of Michigan and on Michigan waters lowered for one day on Friday, July 13, in honor of Army Pfc. Joseph A. Miracle of Ortonville, who died July 5 while on active duty in Afghanistan. Flags should return to full-staff on Saturday.

Miracle, 22, died from wounds sustained from enemy small arms and indirect fire in the Watapor Valley of Kunar Province, Afghanistan. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade, Vicenza, Italy.

When flown at half-staff or half-mast, the United States flag should be hoisted first to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-staff or half-mast position. The flag should again be raised to the peak before it is lowered for the day.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Emergency sirens

A Sound Off caller asked a really good question:

We'd like to know what the different sounds of the sirens are for? We don‘t know for sure what‘s really going on because nobody ever put in the paper what the different sounds are for.
Rolland Township

To hear what the sirens sound like and what they mean, click here.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Fireworks at Weidman Daze

Weidman joined the parade of mid-Michigan communities to celebrate with fireworks Saturday night, with a show that was part of the Weidman Daze festival.

School Road was lined with cars, Sherman Park was packed, and the parking lot of the Weidman VFW was jammed with people. It was a great show, put on with help from the Nottawa-Sherman Townships Fire Department.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sunshine and getting hotter

The rain, for now, is over. Rainfall late Tuesday and early Wednesday was pretty variable Rainfall totals varied from up to nearly an inch across much of Isabella County to only a trace in thirsty southern Gratiot County.
More sunshine is on the way as high pressure moves past the Great Lakes. That high pressure system will bring in some hot, humid Southern air on Sunday. Look for highs in the 90s.
The weather gurus say there's a chance that moist air could unleash some rain, but as of Friday, it's maybe one chance in three. Don't count on it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Natural fireworks

Thunderstorms are in the forecast for the Fourth of July. Mid-Michigan is likely to see some scattered storms in the morning, but they're expected to intensify as they move from the northwest to the southeast. The weather gurus say most areas are expected to see at least some rain.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Tribe buys Holiday Inn

The Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe announced Wednesday it had purchased the Mt. Pleasant Holiday Inn.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Tribal Chief Fred Cantu and Holiday Inn General Manager Mike Brehm said the deal would close in August.

Here is the text of the press release from the Tribe:

On July 2, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe announced to their Tribal membership and surrounding community the purchase of the Mt. Pleasant Holiday Inn.

“This is an excellent acquisition that will complement our business interests and allow our Tribe to continue our diversification in the hospitality industry”, Saginaw Chippewa Tribal Chief Fred Cantu, Jr. said. “With over 27 years in the gaming and hospitality industry, we have the expertise to make this property a part of our other successful existing businesses”.

The Holiday Inn acquisition will be renamed the Soaring Eagle Inn & Conference Center and will be operated independent of the Tribe’s four diamond Soaring Eagle Casino & Resort.

To maintain efforts of a smooth transition, all current Holiday Inn employees will retain their jobs and will become employees of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe.

“I look forward to this property and our team members becoming part of a large, successful, growing organization,” Holiday Inn General Manager Michael Brehm informs. “I was personally overwhelmed of the Tribal Council effort to assure continued employment for all our staff … it shows they care about families in our community”.

Brehm will continue his current position to provide leadership at the Soaring Eagle Inn & Conference Center.

The business acquisition includes the 183 rooms at the Holiday Inn, the 42 rooms at Green Suites, the Pickard Street Grille restaurant, Boomers nightclub, Inn Sports health club and the executive par three golf course Holiday Greens

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Lake Isabella's fireworks

The fireworks season continues -- and Saturday night, it was Lake Isabella's turn. Privately funded, but put on by the village, it was a serious show over the lake.
The lake was full of boaters, the shores were full of people and the skies were full of light. The full moon rose just as the show ended -- what a show!