MONTCALM COUNTY, MI – Michigan State Police are investigating a colossal fire that destroyed an automotive parts warehouse near Greenville.
Ten fire departments responded to the blaze that all but incinerated the Keystone Automotive Industries building, located at 5835 Vining Road in Montcalm County’s Montcalm Township, about 2.5 miles north of Greenville. The company refurbishes plastic auto parts.
Firefighters are calling the building, which stretches 11-acres, a total loss.
The fire started around 10:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. It spread quickly as it burned through the building and destroyed the roof before firefighters arrived on scene five minutes later, said Montcalm Township Firefighter Randy Kibilko.
No employees were working when the fire started and no firefighters were injured while fighting the blaze, Kibilko added.
Firefighters were able to extinguish a large portion of the fire by early Sunday morning, but several hotspots remain.
Kibilko said his department plans to keep firefighters on scene to make sure those hotspots don’t reignite what little is left of the building.
“The plan is to let the fire burn itself out,” he said. “There’s too much to dig through to find hotspots. This fire will burn for days.”
News reports described the fire as massive, but Kibilko said those words don’t begin to do it justice.
“You don’t train for something like this,” Kibilko told MLive.com. “You train for a quarter of something like this. Man, it’s just something you never want to see in your whole career.”
Kibilko said the building was completely burned inside from floor to ceiling and was fueled by strong winds when the roof finally collapsed.
“The fire was just too big and too hot and there was no way were going to get ahead of it,” Kibilko said. “It was strictly defensive so we could control exposures to the north storage buildings. Our game plan almost from the beginning was to stay out of the collapse zone and put as much water on it as possible.
“But we decided pretty early on in the event that water wasn’t the best (solution) for what we wanted to do.”
Firefighters from several departments worked prevent the fire from spreading to additional parts of the factory and were able to keep the blaze out of the building’s finish shop.
“That’s a huge win for us,” Kibilko said. “No firefighter injuries, that’s a huge win for us so we can go home to our families without any issues.”
But the loss of the warehouse and the jobs it supported will be “heartbreaking” for the community, Kibilko added.
“We’re hoping the company takes care of them,” Kibilko said. “(We’re) hoping we can get some donations for them so everyone can have a good holiday season.”
Montcalm Township fire was aided by several fire departments, including Greenville, Maple Valley, Belding, Stanton, and Kent County’s Spencer and Oakfield townships, to name a few. At least two other departments were on standby to provide mutual aid.