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Heard on Morning Edition

Working Sprinkler System Could Have Saved Huge Building in Highland Park

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Image credit: Liz Scrutchfield

Water was shut off one week before massive fire

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The cause of a massive Highland Park fire that burned for nearly seven days is still under investigation. It’s been two months since the fire at a 550,000 square foot warehouse on Hamilton near Oakman in Highland Park. The building was the equivalent of over five square city blocks and housed several businesses including Reclaim Detroit, a salvage company that removes building materials from deconstructed homes. Executive Director, Craig Vartarian says the sprinkler system did not work. “One of the areas of investigation with the owner of the building, the water had been shut off in the building the prior week, primarily they said because of the pipes freezing. However, that had a substantial impact on the level of this fire. I mean if those sprinklers had been on, it would have been extinguished much more quickly” Vartarian says without the sprinkler system the fire turned into an environmental disaster for the community around it. He says Reclaim Detroit lost over 700-thousand board feet of wood, thousands of door handles, hinges and other hardware and all of its equipment and vehicles. Investigators have not released a report on the cause of the fire.

Amy Miller, Reporter/Producer

Amy has been working in public and commercial radio for the last 30 yrs. She is an award winning reporter and news anchor, born and raised in Detroit. Follow @wdetamy

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