Fire at Penobscot Building in downtown Detroit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — A fire  broke out in an elevator shaft between floors of the Penobscot Building, one of the tallest buildings in the city's skyline. 

Fire alarms began going off in the building around 2:40., workers said as they waited outside the building Friday afternoon. As many as 15 fire and police vehicles were on the scene by 3 p.m.

The intersection of Fort and Griswold and Shelby streets were blocked off and people were cleared from the sidewalks. 

Stephen Lovell said he and his law team were doing a deposition on the 41st floor when alarms went off.

“The alarms went off like they often do and we just kept working,” Lovell said. “But when we opened the door, the place filled with smoke. From 41 down to 26 or 27 was filled with smoke. Thankfully, the fire stairwell wasn’t, but anytime there were glass windows, we could see smoke pouring into the hallways.”

Workers said alarms sound often in the building, and it wasn’t an easy exit. 

“The alarms went off and usually, they’ll say this is an emergency or disregard, but that didn’t happen,” said Deanna Denby, who works on the 40th floor.

Fire and EMS officials clear the sidewalk out front of the Griswold entrance of the Penobscot Building in Detroit.

“What’s troubling is that there’s only one working elevator. We had emergency services take down our one disabled worker and they had to take her down to the 27th floor and then share the one working elevator with other firemen. On the way down, some of those floor doors are locked and they’re not supposed to be.”

Deputy Fire Commissioner Dave Fornell said the fire broke out in a freight elevator shaft.

"It was a small fire; we got water on it, and it's under control," he said. 

No injuries were reported and nobody was in the elevator at the time, Fornell said.