JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — Firefighters responded Tuesday afternoon to a large fire in a vacant building near downtown Jackson.
People could see the plume of black smoke for miles around the area of West North Street between Cooper Street and North Blackstone Street. Those roads will be closed until further notice, city officials said.
Crews began battling the fire at noon and were still on the scene six hours later, knocking out “hotspots” near the intersection of Cooper and West North Street.
By 3 p.m., firefighters had the flames under control, but it was a tough battle. Four firefighters, three from Jackson and one from Napoleon Township were treated on the scene for heat exhaustion.
According to the city of Jackson, “Every fire department in Jackson County responded to the fire.” Michigan State Police and the Environmental Protection Agency have been advised to monitor any environmental impacts.
Authorities are asking people to avoid the area and to close windows to avoid smoke irritation. Officials urge anybody with ash on their home to contact the fire department.
Jackson Public Schools announced Tuesday night that due to the potential of hazardous debris associated with the fire, all Jackson schools will be closed Wednesday.
Online records show the building was a factory site for Air Master, which manufactured fans.
The property was already on the auction block. As day turned to dusk, utility crews and EPA officials began to inspect power lines and air quality.
The old factory was known to state officials to be contaminated with chlorinated solvents in the groundwater.
Agency officials say they don’t believe the vapors would be flammable but that could be considered during the investigation.
Some residents called the building a part of Jackson’s history and were shocked to see it go.
“It was hot. I live over at Dale, right by the dollar store. You could feel the heat clear over there from it. I mean, it was massive. It was burning big, but they had a lot of stuff stored in there. It was full of barrels and everything. God, it’s a shame. That’s a piece of history,” said Ed Faley.
Aaron King was one of many who spotted the large stack of thick black smoke billowing from a vacant factory site on the 1000 block of Hamilton Street, along West North Street.
“I see this massive black cloud and I thought if there was a storm coming — being in a historic place like this, the old Jackson Prison and seeing another piece of Jackson history kind of burning down right in front of you, is kind of strange,” King said.
Fred Calvert’s neighborhood was one of a handful of streets with equipment monitoring air quality by an EPA team.
He says he’s glad the wind carried the smoke and ash away from his home but knows it covered part of the city.
“I mean it was just so black, I’m sure west of here, like West Avenue, like where McDonald’s is all that and Kroger is. They must have been getting showered with smoke,” Calvert said.