Fire department ignores four-story blaze at Packard Plant; burns all night

A four-story fire raged all evening and night at the sprawling Packard Plant in Detroit after firefighters chose not to battle the blaze, which was visible for miles from I-94.

Dispatchers were told to stop alerting the fire department of calls about the blaze Monday night because it was too difficult to access the plant’s north side, where several fires broke out, causing floors to cave in and walls to collapse. The cash-starved fire department won’t send firefighters into the vacant plant because of numerous hazards, including crumbling ceilings and gaping holes in the floor.

The cavernous, 40-acre building offers ample hiding space for arsonists, who increasingly have been setting the building afire, sapping an already understaffed fire department.

It’s not unusual for a Packard fire to smolder for days, but Monday’s fire was especially large.

The Packard has become a popular destination for graffiti artists, explorers and photographers since March, when the owner, Dominic Cristini, pledged to soon demolish the building. But there’s no evidence – demolition permits, asbestos remediation or on-site workers – that suggests Cristini is making good on his promise.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.