Ann Arbor Welding Supply Hazardous Materials Fire 2019
At approximately 12:30 p.m. on Thursday April 11, a fire occurred at the Ann Arbor Welding Supply Company, 4811 Carpenter Road, in Pittsfield Township. The Pittsfield Township Fire Department responded immediately. Upon arrival, responders found heavy fire and smoke conditions along with multiple explosions coming from the rear of the building.
Crews determined a 2000 gallon propane tank was on fire along with several smaller propane, butane, and acetylene tanks. A second large propane tank and a 30,000 gallon butane tank were exposed to the fire which prompted an isolation and evacuation, distance of one mile in all directions, due to the risk of a major explosion affecting a wide area. Carpenter Road was shut down between Ellsworth and Michigan Avenue. Furthermore, US-23 was also shut down in both directions, between Michigan Avenue and I-94, for a short period of time. Explosions from smaller tanks created an airborne projectile risk to all persons within the danger area.
The Washtenaw County Emergency Operations Center was partially activated with 4 personnel.
Citizens were advised to shelter-in-place if they were located within the one mile radius until directed otherwise. All local broadcast stations were alerted and NIXLE emergency messages were issued. A "shelter-in-place" message advises all members of the public to go inside their home or business, close all doors and windows, turn off all fans, heating and air conditioning systems, and go to an above ground room (not the basement) with the fewest windows and doors. Citizens should then monitor local radio stations for additional official information.
Mutual aid was requested from Ann Arbor City Fire, Ann Arbor Township Fire, Ypsilanti Township Fire, Huron Valley Ambulance and the Washtenaw County HazMat team to assist at the scene. The Western Wayne County HazMat Team also assisted with a drone for aerial surveillance of the scene. The Pittsfield Township Police Department and Washtenaw County Sheriff assisted with evacuations and traffic control within the isolation area.
Once the area was deemed safe to work in, crews cooled the tanks and applied firefighting foam where flammable liquids were still burning. Damage to the tanks and outside equipment was severe, but the building suffered only minor damage. According to staff, when the fire started an employee had been working outside in the yard when he noticed flames coming from the tanks. He was able to safely evacuate before the fire spread and was not injured. Two other employees were treated and released for smoke inhalation, but no other injuries were reported during the incident.
Fire officials lifted evacuation and shelter-in-place orders around 5:30 p.m.