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Industrial fire and multiple explosions shoot debris into the air in Detroit suburb

Mar 4, 2024, 9:12 PM | Updated: Mar 5, 2024, 4:08 am

CLINTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — A fire raging at a building that supplies novelties, phone accessories and other merchandise to discount stores caused multiple explosions that injured at least two people and rocked suburban Detroit, sending debris shooting far into the air.

The debris fell Monday night as far as a mile (1.6 kilometers) away, the Clinton Township Police Department said on Facebook. Authorities said they didn’t know exactly what was burning or the potential health effects, but said the business was “known to stock combustible materials” and urged people in the area to stay inside.

White smoke and an orange glow could still be seen above the remnants of the Select Distributors building on Tuesday morning in Clinton Township. Earlier, news helicopter videos showed a massive, bright orange area of fire with bursts of flames within the blaze that looked like explosions.

A bystander suffered injuries and was taken to a hospital. A firefighter suffered a minor injury and both a police vehicle and a fire vehicle were damaged from exploding projectile canisters, police said.

The explosions started at about 8:50 p.m. Monday.

“There was nothing but fireballs,” Jeffrey Korby, who lives near the business, told WXYZ-TV. “I was concerned about getting my kids out of the house.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel told WDIV-TV said firefighters understood “some type of CO2 or propane explosions were taking place at the facility, and again, it was just continuous explosions, as well as the fire.”

After 11 p.m., he told the news outlet that the fire had been contained.

“Their concern right now is — obviously they’re taming the fire, but now, what’s going on with that air quality?” Hackel said. “We have a HAZMAT unit that’s out trying to test the air quality so we can get further updates.”

Police said the investigation is under the jurisdiction of the local fire department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. An email seeking comment was sent to the bureau.

Kevin Felster told The Detroit News he was on his way to Clinton Township when he saw the fire and heard the explosions. He said he got out of his car and saw pieces of metal — from the size of a spray can to the size of a car wheel — on the ground.

“It was heavy stuff and it was all charred black,” Felster said. “I guarantee you … if that came flying through the air at any velocity at all, it would just shatter your head like nothing.”

Select Distributors is a wholesale supplier of novelties, phone accessories and other merchandise to discount stores, dollar stores, wholesalers and other stores, according to its website. Glass products and nitrous oxide were also advertised on the site.

The business didn’t immediately respond to emails seeking comment.

Joleen Vultaggio said she heard the explosions from 8 miles (12.8 kilometers) away at her home in Sterling Heights.

“It just freaked me out because it wasn’t like one boom, it was continuous and it was very intense,” she said.

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Industrial fire and multiple explosions shoot debris into the air in Detroit suburb