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Fire breaks out in Detroit grocery store as people shop

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A major fire broke out at a west-side grocery store Tuesday while people completed their Christmas Eve shopping.

"I didn't think the nightmare before Christmas was going to come true, but this is it," said Angelo Walker, a meat market employee who was inside the Metro Food Center at 6461 West Warren Ave., when the fire broke out at 12:41 p.m.

The fire at the Metro Food Center at 6461 West Warren Ave. sent smoke billowing so far that traffic cameras could see it from the freeway,

"I saw people running from in the meat department and I was like 'why are all of these people running in the store?'"

Walker, who has been working at the store for 17 years, said when he heard the commotion, he ran over with others to ensure all of the employees were getting out, "letting them know it was serious. We couldn't put it out."

They tried to grab fire extinguishers, but the fire spread too quickly. 

"We said 'forget it, everybody just get out,'" said Walker. "We tried, but there's too much inventory in there." 

Senior fire chief Darrell Freeman was on scene and said 42 firefighters were helping extinguish and contain the fire. He said they weren't planning on sending anyone inside, and the store had been evacuated. 

Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Darrell Freeman makes a call on the scene of the fire.

"It's a commercial building. There's nothing to save," Freeman said of the 200 by 200-square-foot building. "The walls are falling in."

Nobody was injured in the fire and nobody was believed to be left inside, he said.

Arson investigators were also on the scene. 

Workers gathered in the parking lot, watching their place of employment burn.

"The fire just started. It happened within minutes. The whole place was engulfed," said Naz Qayed, a pharmacist at the store. "I looked up at the fire on the ceiling and I knew that a fire extinguisher wasn't enough." 

The Dearborn resident, who has worked at the store for the last year-and-a-half, said he was grateful nobody was hurt. 

A Michigan Department of Transportation freeway camera shows black smoke coming from a grocery store fire in Detroit.

"I was like, 'we've got to get out of here fast,'" he said. "Thank goodness everybody got out. We have elderly people who work here too."

Freeman said he also ordered the Family Dollar next door to close down for safety reasons. Nobody answered the phone at the store Tuesday afternoon.

In addition to it being Christmas Eve, Tuesday was pay day for the employees. It was unclear what would happen to their checks. Many of them, said Walker, are desperate for the money. 

"You know, I went broke for Christmas," said the 35-year-old father of two. "I wanted this check to help bounce back."