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Michigan industrial fire site wasn't allowed to store gas canisters: officials

The Michigan industrial building that caught fire on Monday, sending gas canisters into the air and killing man, should not have had certain canisters, officials say.

Investigators looking into the cause of a massive industrial building fire in a Detroit suburb Monday night that propelled gas canisters into the air – one of which fatally struck a 19-year-old man – say that the facility was storing canisters that it should not have had.

The deadly incident saw a massive inferno tear through a facility at 19100 15 Mile Road, and witnesses heard hundreds of explosions go off as butane and nitrous oxide canisters shot up into the air and rained down as far as two miles away. 

The incident rocked the local area of Clinton Township, a charter township in Macomb County, where some residents say they thought they were at war. Fire investigators and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are still looking into what caused the fire.

The facility houses Select Distributors, which supplies vaping products and cellphone chargers for liquor stores and gas stations, as well as a company called Goo, which sells whipped cream chargers in heavy canisters. 


Township Supervisor Bob Cannon said that the building was storing butane and nitrous oxide canisters that it was not permitted to keep there.

Cannon said that the victim, who was not immediately identified, was at a nearby car wash watching the scene unfold when a piece of debris struck him in the head. Four employees were inside the building when the fire erupted and managed to flee the scene, officials said. 

"They were not allowed to have these canisters," Cannon said in a Tuesday press conference.

"Had we known the containers were in the backroom, we would have issued violations immediately and worked to get them out of there through the court systems," said Cannon, who added that the operators will be held accountable.


"There are going to be repercussions," he said. "People have done things wrong, very wrong. And we don’t like it and we’re not going to accept it."

Officials say that the operators of the businesses and the employees have been cooperative. 

Cannon warned local residents to not approach any of the canisters that are strewn across the neighborhood as they are still liable to explode. 

WXYZ, citing import records, stated that Select Distributors was importing gas cylinders from China back in November.

"They had recently received a semi-load of the butane containers," Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan said. "They had over half of that still left. They also had the palates of the nitrous and then lighter fluid along with that."

Duncan said more than 100,000 vape pens containing lithium batteries were also inside the building, many of which exploded.

"There's a lot of aspects that go into these. The storage, what they are allowed to do, certain amounts they're allowed to have," Duncan said.

The fire broke out at around 8:40 p.m., and firefighters were not immediately able to fight the fire due to the explosions and dangerous projectiles. 

Fires were still burning at the site on Tuesday, and Fox 2 reported that investigators are not able to access the blast site until it is no longer igniting and cleared by firefighters.

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