Auto parts shop fire remains under investigation

LINCOLN PARK — Fire Department officials are investigating the cause of a two-alarm fire Wednesday that injured one person at Dix Automotive Recyclers, 3298 Dix.

 

Fire Chief Ken Elmore said the blaze began in the southwest corner of the facility shortly before 11 a.m. after an explosion. Investigators believe a spark from auto parts dismantling equipment ignited an ungrounded gas barrel.

 

Because the fire already had breached the south side windows and the roof over the southwest bay area when the call came in, he said firefighters knew the blaze was “well-involved” and that they would need help from other communities immediately.

 

The Downriver Emergency Response Team came to monitor the situation and to help investigate. Elmore said there was one unconfirmed report of a person suffering burns, but that there were no serious injuries.

 

Dix was closed between London and Gregory near I-75 after firefighters arrived to quell the flames that could be seen for miles Wednesday morning. Elmore said several other explosions occurred as the fire spread eastward.

 

The fire was subdued within two hours as firefighters from several Downriver communities, including Allen Park, Melvindale and Southgate helped spare the northern end of the building. Elmore estimated 35 percent of it was saved.

 

The saved portion contained the business’s computers and records, he sadi, “so I feel we made a real good stop.”

 

Because part of the roof collapsed, firefighters remained on the scene well into the evening to make sure there were no hot spots flaring up again and checked the site again Thursday morning.

 

Firefighters from each department completed what Melvindale Fire Chief Scott Wellman called a “surround and drown.”

 

Within minutes, Elmore said firefighters were on hand to help his team extinguish the blaze.

 

“This was a very large fire but we’re thankful that there were no serious injuries,” he said. He was uncertain how many people were in the building and said firefighters would remain on site for hours checking for hot spots.

 

“There’s no doubt the fire destroyed the building, and it will be a while before they become operational again,” he said.

 

Elmore said the facility had no reported fire code violations but had called for an occasional emergency rescue. He said the back area, where the business dismantled autos, had accelerated the fire with the types of material present, like acetylene equipment, auto fuel and plastic parts.

 

“The type of business it is makes it more vulnerable to situations compared to other buildings,” he said. “We had no reports of problems in the past.”

 

Traffic began to flow through the area that afternoon as Dix was reopened partially with minor lane closures.

 

“The mutual aid aspect really did its part, and we were able to control this within a few hours,” Elmore said. “I’m thankful we weren’t fighting a blaze in the hot weather we just had a few days ago. The guys are in full gear and it would have made it brutal for them to get it under control under those conditions.

 

“This could have been a great deal worse.”

 

(Contact Tristan L. Crowe at tristan.crowe@timesheraldnewspapers.com.)