Fifth Third Ballpark fire report released

9:40 PM, Jan 8, 2014   |    comments
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Photo Gallery: PHOTOS: Fifth Third Ballpark in flames - 1/3/14
Fifth Third Ballpark, Comstock Park, Mich. (Jan. 3, 2013)
 PDF Document: Fifth Third Ballpark Fire Report Complete

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Rubbermaid trash cart accidentally pushed in front of a running space heater caused the Jan. 3 fire that destroyed nearly half of Fifth Third ballpark.

That is one of the conclusions in a 7-page report released Wednesday by the Plainfield Township Fire Department. The report also concludes that the accidental fire would have been far less severe had a fire suppression system been working properly.

Last Friday's fire started in suite 306 along the first base line, where two space heaters had been left running unattended. Sprinkler heads in the suite should have tripped when the fire intensified, but did not due to problems with an air compressor.

An employee working near the suite smelled something burning about 10:45 a.m., but could not find the source. Less than 10 minutes later, she noticed light smoke coming from under the door of suite 306 and at the same time, an automatic alarm was received by Kent County Fire Dispatch.

Employees had partial success knocking down flames with a fire extinguisher, but it reignited when the extinguisher ran out. They left the structure and waited for firefighters to arrive.

The first crews from Plainfield Township arrived on scene at 10:53 a.m., but it wasn't until 11:20 a.m. firefighters were able to make it into the suite level where the fire was burning. The fire intensified, with heavy black smoke and heat extending from floor to ceiling along the suite level. Crews evacuated at 11:28 a.m. and fought the fire from outside, using two hydrants on ballpark grounds and one nearly 1/3 of a mile away.

Fire investigators say the trash cart was accidentally pushed in front of a space heater, which was left running while workers checked on a frozen pipe elsewhere in the ballpark. Ignition of the trash bin contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, fire Investigators determined.

The fire destroyed the suite level and concession area along the first base line, with the section eventually collapsing and burning on stadium seats below.

Smoke and water damage was extensive on the main level of the stadium, impacting corporate offices as well as concession stands behind home plate and along the third base line. Upper level suites behind home plate and along the third base line had minor smoke damage.

RELATEDFire protection at Fifth Third ballpark needs upgrade

The report also notes that water supply was an issue. The closest hydrant used by Grand Rapids' areal truck was 1,600 feet away, at the entrance to AJ's Fun Park.

Firefighters from five departments spent more than three hours bringing the fire under control. Crews cleared the scene at 5:55 p.m., but returned the next morning when a small fire reignited.

Work to rebuild the ballpark is underway and White caps officials say they plan to be ready for opening day on April 8.


9:30 a.m. Three employees begin remodeling work on suite # 306. Tools, two space heaters and Rubbermaid trash cart brought into room.

10 a.m. Employees leave suite to check on frozen pipe in a different part of the ballpark.

10:45 a.m. Employee smells smoke.

10:52 a.m. Fire alarm sounds and is reported to Kent County dispatch. Employees try to extinguish fire with extinguisher.

10:59 a.m. Plainfield Township fire arrives, requests additional trucks from township.

11:04 a.m. Mutual assistance from Alpine Township requested.

11:07 a.m. Grand Rapids sends aerial ladder truck.

11:20 a.m. Fire crews enter the suite level. Smoke and heat from fire extended floor to ceiling.

11:28 a.m. Crews evacuate the suite level and battle fire from outside.

5:55 p.m. Fire crews clear the scene.

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