HOLLAND TWP. (WWJ/AP) – A southwest Michigan couple is being sued for more than $2 million over damages caused by an apartment fire sparked when they tried to cook a squirrel with a propane torch.

Two lawsuits were filed in Ottawa County Circuit Court by insurance companies that covered damages after the October 2012 fire in Holland Township.

Fire broke out on the balcony of a third-floor unit at Clearview Apartments after Khek Chanthalavong used a torch to burn off the squirrel’s fur as he prepared to cook the rodent. After removing the fur,  Chanthalavong went inside to prepare his meal. About 15 minutes later, Chanthalavong smelled something burning and saw his balcony in flames. The fire spread to the roof, completely destroying eight apartments and damaging several others.

Chanthalavong shared the apartment with his girlfriend, Barbara Pellow. The insurance company claims both are liable for any smoke or water damage under their agreed upon apartment lease.

Travelers Indemnity Company is suing Pellow for $2 million, and Auto Owners Insurance Company is seeking the $56,000 it paid to three renters.

The blaze was ruled accidental. Although the fire displaced 29 families, no residents were injured. A responding firefighter broke a toe.

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.



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