The sprawling factory fire that won’t stop burning in Detroit (photos, video)

Michael A Brouwer

A large occupied factory in Detroit has been burning for four days and is beginning to crumble – a remarkable feat for a reinforced-concrete building that was designed to withstand enormous heat.

Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, three to four separate fires broke out at the former Fisher Body Plant No. 10 at 1600 Farnsworth near I-75 and E. Warren, quickly tearing through a cluster of large buildings, in large part fed by wooden pallets.

This morning, black smoke continued to spew from the roof and windows of the main six-story building, where brick walls are buckling and heat-resistant concrete is sloping. The extreme heat over several days caused large sections of the adjacent four-story building to collapse.

More than three dozen firefighters battled the second-alarm blaze Wednesday before realizing they were outmatched. The buildings’ tiny windows, low-water pressure and freezing temperatures complicated the efforts. By Thursday, the fire department stopped hosing down the fire. 

Now a few fire engines babysit the blaze as it churns through the building, where workers for Palmer Promotional Products made displays for advertising and marketing.

The cause of the fire is under investigation. Firefighters initially reported smelling kerosene, and a few employees were evacuated.

Plant #10 is a cluster of buildings constructed between 1910 and 1921 by the Fisher Body Corporation, the largest manufacturer of auto bodies at the time.

The following photos are by Michael A. Brouwer

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Heavy smoke poured out of the plant on the first day.

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Fire ripped through the buildings on the first day.

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Firefighters tried to douse the flames but were overmatched.

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It was a frigid day to fight a fire.

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Small windows made it difficult to douse the fire.

The plant continued to burn Saturday.

The plan continued to burn Saturday.

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The plant is beginning to collapse.

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.

  • Chris801

    Technically, I believe both addresses are correct with 5140 Riopelle being the legal address of the building and 1600 Farnsworth being the address that was occupied. I thought they were starting to demo it – is that what the permit was for? Or are you referring to an old permit that had been obtained that you pulled a copy of?

  • Kristen Hyslope

    5140 Riopelle is the correct (legal) address, per a building permit I pulled.

  • Samuel Hoadley

    It has burned for 4 days and the building that was made to withstand extreme heat is starting to collapse now after 4 days, how come the twin towers fell in like 8 hours? Lol

    • Brian

      intact reinforced concrete vs. compromised steel

      • Samuel Hoadley

        Sure does not explain tower 7 though

  • Marc Wigle

    “Just before 9 a.m. Wednesday, three to four separate fires broke out at the former Fisher Body Plant No. 10″… nope, doesn’t sound suspicious to me…