Metal fire put out with sand on Detroit’s east side

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

The Detroit Fire Department fought fire with dry sand and rock salt Tuesday at a plant on the city’s east side.

It all started about 5:10 a.m. with a “minor explosion” in a machine at the Global Titanium plant on the 19300 block of Filer, said Dave Fornell, deputy fire commissioner. That’s north of East Seven Mile, and just east of Mount Elliott.

The explosion took place in a building where the company processes magnesium, one of three structures on the site.

When firefighters arrived, the fire had spread to two storage bins, Fornell said.

“Magnesium, when it ignites, it burns with a white-hot heat, and you can’t use water to put it out,” Fornell said. “The water turns to steam and causes minor explosions, which spreads the material.”

Titanium also was involved.

Unlike at most of the blazes the department fights, this time workers at the site “worked hand-in-hand” with firefighters over the next hour, Fornell said.

The sand and rock salt needed to smother the fire were already on site.

“They knew what they were doing,” Fornell said of the employees.

“These people deal with this every day. They’re trained; it’s their job. They’ve got the equipment, they’ve got the expertise, they know what valves to turn on and off.”

As for the building itself it’s “pretty well intact” after the explosion, Fornell said. “There’s no damage to the structure.”

No one was hurt.