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City of Jackson regroups after major fire Tuesday at a vacant factory

Water from a firetruck crane is sprayed down on the charred structure remaining of a former factory
Aaron Dimick
City of Jackson

Updated August 23, 2023 at 8:21 p.m. ET

The city of Jackson is assessing damage after a massive structure fire Tuesday north of downtown.

Firefighters contained the blaze after fighting it for several hours at the vacant former Airmaster fan factory.

large black smoke plume behind a building
Aaron Dimick
City of Jackson

Crews from every fire department in the county responded to the emergency. Three Jackson firefighters and one Napoleon Township firefighter were treated on the scene Tuesday for heat exhaustion.

The fire sent smoke and ash into the air that descended on properties in the northwest section of the city.

Jackson Public Information Officer Aaron Dimick said the area is "still a very active scene" and called the blaze one of the biggest he'd even seen.

"Large amounts of ash and debris went into the air, and lots of thick, black smoke," he said.

The building has not collapsed, but crews are monitoring the site. Community members are being asked to avoid the area with a section of North Street between Cooper and North Blackstone street remaining closed to traffic.

The Michigan State Police and Jackson Police and Fire Services are investigating the fire while the Environmental Protection Agency is monitoring for any environmental impacts.

Jason Cashmere is an on-scene coordinator with the EPA. He said the agency set up air quality monitors Tuesday evening that ran overnight to detect particulate matter and pollutants like hydrogen sulfide. The monitors have not encountered any immediate air quality risks.

The EPA also sent several samples of debris pieces for testing. Results received Wednesday evening found the debris around homes does not contain hazardous material, and residents now are safe to dispose of them. 

Officials did detect asbestos in ash near the building. Cashmere said if hot spots in the building subside and fire crews deem it safe to enter, the EPA will enter the site with state officials to examine the interior conditions.

Jackson Public Schools cancelled the first half day of classes on Wednesday due to the potential of hazardous debris from the fire contaminating school sites.

Sophia Saliby is the local producer and host of All Things Considered, airing 4pm-7pm weekdays on 90.5 FM WKAR.
Arjun Thakkar is WKAR's politics and civics reporter.
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