Chase Creek Smokehouse burns

CHASE TWP. – A late-afternoon fire Monday destroyed the Chase Creek Smokehouse restaurant.

Firefighters were dispatched to the restaurant located at 7143 S. Depot St. at about 4:20 p.m. according to Lake County Sheriff’s Department officials. Baldwin, Yates Township, Webber Township, Evart, Hersey and Reed City fire departments responded.

Reed City Fire Department handled the fire investigation at the scene. Fire Chief Jim Decker said the initial investigation led him to believe that the blaze originated in the restaurant’s electrical circuit box.

“From what the store’s employees have told us, we’re leaning toward it being an electrical fire,” he said.

Decker said that he spoke with other firefighters from the scene who saw flames go up the back wall of the restaurant and spread to the roof, which would be consistent with initial findings on the cause. He believes the fire was accidental.

“As far as we’re concerned now, the cause is undetermined,” he said. “But from what I’ve seen, yes (it was accidental).”

The final determination on the cause of the fire will be made by the fire marshal from the Michigan State Police.

There were no customers in the restaurant at the time of the fire. Only a few employees were working inside when the fire started. Nobody was injured in the blaze.

Heavy black clouds of smoke could be seen for miles from surrounding areas. Soon after the fire began, the restaurant’s roof collapsed.

“It’s a catastrophic loss,” said Richard Perrin, Lake County Undersheriff. “It was one the nicer establishments we had in Lake County and it’s a shame that it’s gone.”

Chase Township residents Brian and Dawn Walworth were planning to eat dinner Monday at the Smokehouse and were stopped by LCSD officials who were providing crowd control for the scene.

“We got down the road and they said ‘not tonight you’re not’,” Brian Walworth said. “The flames never that high because the wind just beating them down. It was just burning, you could tell it was burning a lot on the inside.”

The Walworth’s said the establishment was known for its friendly atomosphere, all-you-can eat fish on Mondays and its giant fan on the inside.

“It was down home, a rustic kind of feel. All the tables and chairs were made out of wood,” Brian Walworth said. “It was real friendly, everybody knew everybody most of the time.”

The United States Forestry Service was also initially on the scene due to the heavy winds on Monday amid concern that the flames may have spread to the Huron-Manistee National Forest.