Woman survives fish house explosion
by Gary King
CLAM FALLS - Michelle Schmidt feels bad that the fish house she borrowed is now mostly charred and twisted metal, sitting in the middle of the frozen lake.
But she also feels lucky.
Schmidt, who owns the Clam Falls Tavern with husband, Keith, said she was "put right through the door" of the fish house by the explosion but suffered only a burned wrist and some singed hair. Her pants, shirt and mittens caught on fire, also. Right after the explosion she went back to retrieve two small propane bottles. "I don't know what I was thinking - It was a dumb thing to do but I was afraid they would ignite, also," she said. She ended up using snow to put out some flames on some carpet on the floor of the house.
The explosion occurred Thursday morning, Feb. 21, at about 7 a.m. on the Clam Falls Flowage about 9 miles east of Frederic. Michelle said a longtime family friend, Ray Domogala, had offered her the use of the fish house. She switched propane bottles on the heater inside the fish house and then began chopping ice.
"I wasn't going to start the heater unless I could get through the ice," she said.
After chopping the hole she got out the lighter and lit the heater's pilot light and that's when the explosion occurred.
"I was pretty shook up but okay," Michelle said.
Michelle guessed the propane cylinder may not have threaded properly or tightened enough, allowing gas to leak into the trailer - but she knows how lucky she is to survive, with few injuries and her sense of humor intact.
"Nobody is ever going to lend me their fish house again," she chuckled.