BY MICHAEL WALTON
MANCELONA — A house where police recently found a suspected meth lab burned down in the third Antrim County house fire in recent weeks.
The early-morning fire on Jan. 5 destroyed a home on Elder Road west of U.S. 131 in Mancelona's Custer Township. Police searched the same home on Dec. 15 and found methamphetamine components and drugs. Officers arrested four men and three women following the search.
Antrim County Sheriff Daniel Bean said nothing at this point indicates the fire was related to the discovery of the suspected meth operation.
"Well there are all kinds of rumors," Bean said. "Is it a revenge issue? Is it to cover something up from the other crime? We are not sure on that."
Firefighters from Mancelona Fire District responded to the fire at about 2:30 a.m. along with firefighters from the South Torch Lake and Bellaire fire districts, Mancelona Fire Chief Ed Sayre said. The structure was fully engulfed by the time the first fire engine arrived on scene. No one was inside the home when the fire started.
Sayre said Michigan State Police fire investigators will examine the scene of the fire sometime this week.
A cause of the fire has not been identified.
"We are waiting for the fire marshal on that," Bean said.
State Police investigators looked at two other recent fires in Antrim County. Authorities said a Nov. 27 house fire on Snowridge Trail was deliberately set. State Police continue to investigate that blaze and have not made any arrests.
Investigators determined a Dec. 13 fire on Keystone Road, about a mile from the scene of the Nov. 27 fire, was not arson, Bean said.
Authorities do not believe any of the three fires are related, Bean said.