By Warren Stutesman, Amy Wycoff and Mark Constance
MIO – The Oscoda County Courthouse caught fire last night and is essentially a total loss. No one was injured.
Oscoda County Sheriff Kevin Grace said a resident spotted smoke coming from the eves of the building about 7 :43 p.m. yesterday. Deputies went to the building to attempt to put the fire out, but weren’t able to extinguish the fire because there was too much smoke.
Tri-Town Fire Department was dispatched to the scene and arrived in less than five minutes.
‘They were in the middle of a meeting when the fire occurred,’ Grace said. ‘So they were able to get here in a hurry.’
Grace said when firefighters arrived, the blaze was burning through the roof. Firefighters form the Luzerne, Fairview and Greenwood Township Fire Departments responded. Oscoda County EMS and the Michigan State Police assisted as well. There was no interruption of E-911 services.
The City of Grayling also sent its ladder truck, which helped contain the fire.
‘They were a big help.,’ Grace said. ‘Everyone was very professional. The ladder truck was what saved the actual structure. It was a big help because it is able to put out fires in taller buildings. And our local departments don’t have that.
Grace said M-33 was closed during the fire because hoses were attached to fire hydrants on the West side of the road. It reopened about 1 a.m. However, Court Street between 10th and 11th Street are closed.
Access to the building and the grounds are currently prohibited.
The Michigan State Police fire marshal has been notified and will be on scene today. The cause of the fire is currently undetermined.
Grace said most of the damage was done to the roof and the second floor.
‘There is a lot of water and smoke damage,’ he said. ‘The four walls and the steeple are still standing.’
He said many of the county records were located in the building. But it’ not clear at this point what can be salvaged.
County officials are meeting this morning to discuss how and where to set up temporary services. Although court activities are held in the county annex, the old courthouse had housed the offices of the county clerk, register of deeds, treasurer, equalization and IT. The Michigan Department of Corrections also occupied an office in the basement.
Buildings large enough to temporarily accommodate the county departments include the community building and old DNR facility. County officials were meeting at 9 a.m. to make the decisions.
‘They will look at some options and pick the best ones,’ Grace said.
According to Michiganmarkers.com, a website site dedicated to showcasing the state’s historical sites: “When the county government moved from a town called Union Corners to Mio in 1882, temporary offices were set up in a rented building owned by John Randall, one Mio’s founders. For permanent quarters the county supervisors purchased land from Randall in 1885. The county hired Bay City architects Pratt and Koeppe to design a courthouse.
“In contrast to the elaborate stone and brick courthouses being built at the time, the firm designed this modest wood frame structure, completed in 1889 … Two wings were added in 1908 to house vaults for the county clerk and treasurer. In 1889-90 a courthouse almost identical to this one was built (in Omer) for Arenac County. That courthouse became a Masonic hall in 1892.” It is currently unused, but still standing.
According to Wikipedia, the Oscoda County Courthouse had a plaque installed on the site recognizing it as State Historic Site on Aug. 31, 1971. It was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places on August 25, 1972. The building was one of the few remaining buildings from the state’s lumbering era. Fires in the late 1800s destroyed many of the original buildings in the county.
Watch www.UpNorthVoice.com for updates as they become available.