Highland Park sues over massive warehouse fire

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

The city of Highland Park is suing the owners and some tenants of a warehouse that caught fire then burned for several days last winter, alleging they failed to properly notify officials about the materials there and should reimburse the city for fighting the blaze.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Detroit lists the manager of Recycling Depot LLC, Jeffrey Seskin; Helm Inc.; and Hamilton Avenue Property Holdings. All are adjacent to each other at 14310 Hamilton Avenue, according to the filing. The city is seeking at least $243,410.40 in firefighting costs.

The 565,000-square-foot property erupted in flames early on Feb. 3, authorities said.

Explosions and heavy smoke from the fire forced the evacuations of nearby residents and prompted the Oakland County Health Division to issue an air quality advisory. A boil-water advisory also was in effect after the blaze contributed to dangerously low water pressure, officials said at the time.

The city of Highland Park is suing for cost recovery and breach of licensing agreement, among other counts.

In May, the city notified Helm that it would seek reimbursement “for equipment and fire service personnel for the 86 hours of fire suppression.”

The lawsuit also claims the blaze required several businesses to close and fire crews took four days to extinguish it.

“Defendants failed to notify the Highland Park fire official that it handled or stored any amount of benzene on the subject property,” the court filing read.

The city also asserts that the building failed to pass a basic fire inspection in January 2013, had “six false alarm system activations, one trash or rubbish fire, and one false alarm or false call” there between then and spring 2015; and Seskin “failed to describe the nature, character and quality of the goods or services to be sold or offered for sale” at his facility when seeking a business license renewal.

Seskin and Helm representatives could not be reached for comment Thursday night.