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Rockwood shelter-in-place order remains after crews battle blaze

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Firefighters spent hours battling a blaze Wednesday at an industrial building in Rockwood that led to evacuation or shelter-in-place orders due to smoke that could contain powder from a product the company processes.

The order to shelter in place remains until 8 a.m. Thursday, Rockwood's fire chief said.

"We’re allowing people to come back home. We’re just telling them to keep their window shut," said Fire Chief Daniel Mercure. "The concern for the public is pretty minimal outside of the immediate building area, but we're just being extremely cautious given the nature of it."

Five firefighters from multiple agencies including Woodhaven and Berlin Township were treated for heat exhaustion and skin irritation while battling the blaze at RJ Marshall Co., Mercure said. Some were released from the hospital late Wednesday but none were expected to have major issues, he said. There were no immediate reports of other injuries.

Rockwood police blocked the intersection of Huron River and Fort late Wednesday.

The fire was reported about 1:45 p.m. Wednesday in the 21200 block of Huron River at the site of RJ Marshall Co. following an explosion, said Mercure. RJ Marshall's website says the company supplies industrial raw materials.

Eleven employees were at the site when the fire erupted but escaped safely, Mercure said.

The blaze was mostly extinguished by 11 p.m., but "we’re just trying to get some hot spots," he said, adding crews were expected to remain on the scene overnight.

Meanwhile, following guidance from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the evacuation and shelter advisories for the surrounding area were expected to remain in effect through 8 a.m. Thursday, Mercure said.

There were concerns that lingering smoke could contain powder from a product known as Expancel, which is processed at the facility and can cause inhalation issues as well as skin irritation, Mercure said.

Residents living on Huron River Road in an approximately 1-mile area between Lamont and Truman were advised to evacuate and keep doors and windows closed.

Monroe County Emergency Management officials asked residents south of Woodruff, east of Interstate 75, north of Huron River and west of Jefferson to shelter in place, police said.

Meanwhile, Huron River Drive was closed between Fort and Jefferson.

Police vehicles blocked the intersections at both ends through late Wednesday. A hazardous materials team also was on the scene for hours.