Clinton Township explosion: Blasts send chunks of metal in all directions; 1 person killed

One person was killed after a fire and multiple explosions at a Clinton Township wholesale distributor sent debris, including metal canisters, flying in all directions Monday night.

Multiple blasts were heard as far away as Mount Clemens and Sterling Heights after the building that houses Goo and Select Distributors at 15 Mile and Groesbeck caught fire around 9 p.m. Residents reported hearing the explosions and feeling their homes shake around Macomb County. 

Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan said nitrous tanks, butane, lighter fluid, and more than 100,000 vape pens with lithium batteries that were inside the building exploded, though the cause of the initial fire is unknown. Initially, it was believed that a marijuana grow operation may have exploded, but that was not the case.

Debris from a fire and explosions in Clinton Township on March 4, 2024.

Barry Miller, with the city's building department, said that the business was issued a certificate of occupancy to operate a store. The business was not supposed to have canisters of nitrous oxide or butane.

"It wasn’t meant for this," Miller said.

The building was inspected and issued its occupancy certificate in 2022.

"Our last inspection did not show this amount of material in this building," Duncan said. "Without those tanks, we don’t have this issue."

City supervisor Bob Cannon said that had the city known what was inside the building, violations would have been issued.

"People have done things wrong, very wrong, and we don’t like it, and we aren’t going to accept it," he said.

Four people were inside the building when the fire started. They all made it out safely.

VIEW: Photos of Clinton Township explosion aftermath

A firefighter is recovering at home after their firetruck was hit by a projectile, while a 19-year-old who was hit by a projectile about ¼ mile away died a few hours after they were injured.

First responders also evacuated nearby homes and businesses as shrapnel flew as far as a half mile to a mile in all directions, according to Duncan. Large metal canisters can be found littering the area on Tuesday morning. Officials warned that canisters could still contain gas.

If you find a canister or debris from the explosion, call the city's contact center at 586 469 5502 or police at 586 493 7800. 

Debris from a fire and explosions in Clinton Township on March 4, 2024.

"It's certainly dangerous," Duncan said. "Pieces of metal you'll see laying around on the ground, pieces this side just shredded, flying across the air."

Investigators are now checking just how far projectiles flew.

"Just the immense amount of projectiles, the steel flying through the air, it's just amazing we didn't have further injuries," Duncan said. "Basically a missile coming right at you."

Below is one of those pieces found at the scene:

Debris from a fire and explosions in Clinton Township on March 4, 2024.

"Just seeing multiple explosions like flames going up in the air, ashes everywhere. Just flames going in the road – damn near getting everybody, hitting the roads," a witness named Christian said. "My ears are literally ringing because of the popping. It was absurd. It was crazy loud… I (along with others) just bailed on foot because I didn't know what was going to happen."

One man said a piece of a canister from the explosions almost struck him as it fell from the sky. Hundreds of other particles fell into residents' backyards. 

As of Tuesday morning, a part of the Select Distributors building was still burning, but the explosions had ceased. 

The Clinton Township Fire Department and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives are investigating.

Air quality was a concern on Monday night, but testing showed that both the air and water were not impacted. Environmental monitoring will be ongoing.  

City officials plan to apply for a local state of emergency.

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