Gawking: When is it too much?


ST. JOHNS, MI (WLNS) – Earlier this week, firefighters were called to a barn fire on Centerline road in St. Johns where the structure ended up being a total loss.

But it wasn’t just the fire that caught the crew’s attention…after crews responded to the fire, the Clinton County Sheriff’s office posted a stern message to people on Facebook that ended with the words “please be considerate and stay out of the way.”

6 News spoke to law enforcement and they told us exactly what happened to prompt this message.

“It was so hot, so fast that we couldn’t get anything out,” Earl Barks said.

This week, the Barks family watched their entire barn burn to the ground.

“There was a lot of smoke and it could be seen for miles,” Barks mentioned.

From antique tractors, to old fashioned cars…all their memories…completely gone.

“There were several old tractors in there and they all had rubber tires and it was a couple trucks,” Barks said.

He says while the fire was his family’s main focus, drive-by gawkers couldn’t help but fill the streets.

“When I was here, if there was 5 vehicles here other than emergency vehicles, that was a lot,” said Jim Carroll who lives nearby the Barks and witnessed the fire.

Curiosity sparks interest in drivers but officials say, when traffic gets in the way of emergency vehicles that’s when there’s a problem.

“If it was your place would you want those type of people sitting on the side of the road watching your sorrow and your loss go up in flames?” Training Captain at Clinton Area Fire & Rescue Lou Evans said.

The Clinton County Sheriff’s office gave 6 News a statement saying:

“A large structure fire on Centerline Rd between Krepps and Chandler Rd on required the response of local law enforcement, fire departments and emergency medical services. As this fire created a large amount of smoke, people in the area became understandably curious as to what was going on. Traffic from both first responders and curious persons increased on the two lane dirt road so much in both directions that fire department traffic became caught up in the backup, delaying their response. Thankfully this was a property only incident and there were no injuries or loss of life. We know it is human nature to be curious, we are just warning against people putting themselves in harms way or potentially slowing down life-saving services. “

“People are gonna do what they want to do,” said Evans.

“We all want to see what’s going on but yet I guess you have to stay at a safe distance for everyone to do their job,” Barks stated.

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