Michigan’s midweek rifle opener turned into a nightmare for one family from Sanilac County when a deer hunter’s blind caught fire. A portable propane heater was likely to blame for the fire that killed an elderly hunter, according to responding officers.
The 75-year-old victim, who remains unidentified, was discovered by his grandson Wednesday morning just a few hours after first light. His grandson was also hunting in the area at the time, ABC 12 News reports. The grandson heard some pops from the direction of his grandfather’s blind, and assumed he had shot a deer. Then he noticed the smoke.
When he approached the blind, he found his grandfather outside of the blind, severely burned and deceased. He contacted Sanilac County Central Dispatch at approximately 10:35 a.m. Sanilac County Sheriff’s Office deputies and the Argyle Fire Department responded to the scene. Upon initial investigation, a portable propane heater inside the blind seemed to be the source of the fire. SCCO, the Sanilac County Medical Examiners Office, and the Michigan State Police Fire Marshals Division continue the investigation into the series of events that led to the hunter’s death. It was not clear if the blind that caught fire was a pop-up, hard-sided, or homemade structure.
Space heaters cause about 1,700 house fires every year, resulting in an average of 70 deaths and 160 injuries annually from 2017 to 2019. As temperatures start to drop across the country, many hunters and campers may bring propane heaters, stoves, and other portable heating devices inside cabins, blinds, tents, and enclosed spaces. While some of these devices are approved for indoor use, it’s also important to take extra precautions to avoid both fire outbreaks and carbon monoxide poisoning.
Keep at least one working fire extinguisher in cabins, RVs, and other dwellings. If a fire breaks out, exit the dwelling immediately and get to a safe meeting place. Call emergency services and tell responding officers where ammunition is stored and how much there is. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also reminds outdoorsmen and women to:
- Keep a battery-powered carbon monoxide detector inside any closed spaces where fuel is burning, even if a ventilation system is set up
- Keep exhaust from gas-powered generators and vehicles away from open windows of cabins, RVs, and other dwellings
- Crack a window in hunting blinds, ice fishing huts, and other enclosed spaces to promote air circulation
- Know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning: headache, dizziness, fatigue, confusion, and trouble breathing. Leave the enclosed space immediately and find fresh air if anyone starts experiencing these potential warning signs