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Officials say business in deadly fire, explosion was not supposed to have canisters in the building

'There was fire everywhere, fire in the street, fire behind the building... it was really, really crazy.'
Posted at 9:28 PM, Mar 04, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-05 23:55:32-05

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) — Crews battled a massive fire at an industrial building in Clinton Township on Monday evening as explosions erupted from the blaze. One person died after they were hit with a projectile.

Officials held a news conference Tuesday afternoon to provide an update on the incident, saying that the situation is still dangerous and there is much more debris to collect than originally thought. They also said they have already collected 15 yards of debris from a two-mile area.

There were hundreds of small explosions inside the building as canisters were exploding and shooting out of the building. Fire crews say the canisters were flying for miles.

“It basically was a war zone. You had shrapnel blowing up wherever you looked. So if you’re standing outside, you're wondering when the next piece is coming my way, when is it going to hit us?” Fire Chief Tim Duncan said.

The situation happened in the area of 15 Mile Road and Groesbeck Highway.

Watch Tuesday afternoon's news conference below:

Officials provide 4 p.m. update on deadly explosion, fire in Clinton Township

Officials are stressing that no one should try to pick up any of the canisters that were flung from the scene due to the danger. They say they have brought in the Michigan State Police Bomb Squad to help collect them. Anyone who finds debris should call 586-469-5502 or the police department at 586-493-7800.

Related: MSP Bomb Squad cleaning up gas canisters, shrapnel from Clinton Twp. explosion

"Please don't put yourself, your family and your friends in jeopardy, because those are dangerous," Clinton Township Supervisor Robert Cannon said. "And we encourage, again, people not to go out looking for these for souvenirs. This is not a game. These things are dangerous. They're jagged, they could hurt some little people and there are containers that are still exploding.”

Duncan said on Tuesday morning that one person died in the explosion – a 19-year-old. The person was reportedly hit by a projectile from the explosion about a quarter mile down the road. The victim has not yet been identified.

Officials said they have yet to officially begin the investigation due to the cleanup at the scene.

Belfour has been brought in to help secure the scene, planning to build a fence around it. Officials say there will be "consequences" for anyone trying to get inside the fenced-in perimeter.

Watch our report from 12 p.m. Tuesday below

What we know so far about the deadly industrial explosion and fire in Clinton Township

The chief described what it was like as they pulled up to the scene: “The explosions were actually shaking the car.”

Watch the latest update from officials below:

Clinton Township officials provide 10 a.m. update on deadly explosion & fire

We're told there is a company called Goo inside the building where this happened, and they're a supplier for vape parts, so there was a lot of butane, propane and nitrous oxide inside the building, which was causing the explosions. The canisters weigh up to 15 pounds.

During the Tuesday afternoon news conference, officials said the company was not licensed to have the canisters in the building. Officials also said they don't know what the business was doing with the canisters and they would only be speculating if they tried to answer the question at this time.

Related: Who is Select Distributors? What we know about Clinton Twp. company rocked by explosion

“We know they were not allowed to have these canisters. They were not permitted to have them in this building. They were illegally in that building,” Cannon said.

Officials say the building was last inspected in 2022.

See chopper video of the aftermath on Tuesday morning

Chopper video shows aftermath of massive fire & explosion in Clinton Township

One of those canisters flew through the windshield of a fire truck and hit a firefighter. Investigators believe glass was the primary cause of the injury, but the firefighter was checked out at a nearby hospital and is expected to be OK. Another pedestrian was injured and hit with a piece of a propane tank.

There were four people inside the building at the time, but they got out once they heard cracking.

Fire crews said this was one of the most challenging fires they've seen in years. They weren't able to subdue it until after midnight.

Duncan said several police vehicles and firetrucks were damaged by the propane. He also said there were some fuel fires on nearby railroad tracks but those have been extinguished.

Tuesday morning, they were still asking people to avoid the area as clean-up efforts and an investigation is underway. Groesbeck and 15 Mile reopened after being closed for several hours.

Related: Batarang knives were among the dangerous projectiles in Macomb County explosion

NEARBY RESIDENTS RECALL HEARING AND SEEING EXPLOSIONS

Loud sounds and huge plumes of smoke could be seen and heard from miles away on Monday evening.

Watch video from Chopper 7 over the scene below:

VIDEO: Crews battle massive industrial fire in Clinton Township near 15 Mile and Groesbeck

"At first, I thought it was the next door neighbor doing something ... crazy outside. And the wife is like 'no, I just checked Facebook, there's explosions going on.' And I followed the plume of smoke and the shaking car, and here I am. And these are the baby explosions going off. There was much bigger ones going off earlier," said one witness.

"You could feel the concussions from the explosions in the car," he added.

Watch viewer video that captures explosions, fire in Macomb County (courtesy Wendy Thompson):

Viewer video: Explosions, fire in Macomb County

Another witness described what they experienced Monday evening: "At the time when it first started off, I was actually inside the house... when I had a chance to get to the front, we all ran outside. We saw the sky was really orange. So at that point, we kept hearing consistent booming, booming noises."

"There was fire everywhere, fire in the street, fire behind the building... it was really, really crazy. I've never seen anything like that before," he added.

Another witness said, "I thought it was thunder... I actually checked my weather app to see if it was supposed to storm or rain tonight and it wasn't, and that's when I heard about it."

Clinton Township posted the following questions and answers on their website following the incident:

Q. The area smells bad. Is the air safe to breathe?
A. HAZMAT has tested the air, and it is safe.

Q. What exploded?
A. The building that burned was not approved for the storage of explosive materials. According to the CTFD, stored in the facility, among other items, were containers of butane, nitrous oxide, lighter fluid, and vape pens. Containers, or canisters, were 12 to 18 inches in size, weighing 10 to 15 pounds.

Q. Is the surrounding area around 15 Mile Rd. & Groesbesck safe?
A. Police & Fire Departments ask the public to stay away from the area as the site is deemed unsafe and the remaining material onsite is unknown.

Q. What do I do with debris I find on my property?
A. Metal canisters of various sizes and other projectiles are part of the debris. If found, call COMTEC at their non-emergency number, 586-469-5502. Under no circumstances should canisters be handled or moved, as they may be dangerous with sharp edges.

Q. I live near 15 Mile & Groesbeck. What if I have damage to my home or business?
A. For the purpose of documenting damage, area residents and business owners can report damage by uploading information and photos to the following to SELF REPORTING SURVEY at https://arcg.is/10ab1j.

Q. Are the roads open?
A. Groesbeck Hwy is open. 15 Mile Rd. is expected to open.

Q. Has our water been affected?
A. The water supply is safe.