One person killed after huge fire ignites Michigan warehouse, raining debris ‘as

A man was killed after an enormous fire Monday night at a suburban Detroit warehouse, known to stock combustible materials, ignited explosions, shook homes and rained down debris as far as a mile away, officials and residents said.

Authorities on Tuesday evening appeared to be focused on butane and nitrous oxide canisters they said were stored illegally at the warehouse in Clinton Township, which housed a distributor of vaporizer pens, smoke shop items and convenience and dollar store goods.

“We know they were not allowed to have these canisters,” Paul S. Brouwer, the township’s emergency management coordinator, said at a news conference Tuesday night. “They were not permitted to have them in this building.”

The 19-year-old man who was killed was identified Wednesday night by the Macomb County Corporation Counsel as Turner Lee Salter. He was at a nearby car wash, possibly observing the commotion, as canisters rained on the community even after the explosion was reported at 8:50 p.m., officials said.

Officials said the man was hit in the head and taken to the hospital, where he died.

Clinton Township Fire Chief Tim Duncan said firefighters had trouble accessing the building “due to the hundreds, if not thousands of explosions.”

First-responder vehicles rushing to the scene were struck by canisters, he said. Officials earlier said at least some of the canisters measured 12 inches.

“We had a number of fire engines and police vehicles that were hit,” Duncan said. “Somebody was looking out for us.”

A firefighter was injured by debris that flew through his windshield and struck him in the face, officials said. The firefighter was treated at the hospital and released.

Canisters have been discovered as far as 2 miles away, with officials saying 25 had been collected by early Tuesday evening. They said residents had been seen collecting them, possibly as souvenirs, and warned that the items were potentially explosive and deadly.

Everyone at the warehouse, where some workers assigned to the business’ web-based sales were working, evacuated safety, officials said.

Emergency services were called at 8:50 p.m. to the warehouse, which housed the vape wholesale business Select Distributors and a vape and nitrous oxide brand under a wholesaler called Goo.

On its website, Select Distributors says it supplies novelty items and phone accessories to dollar stores and that it sells vape products, nitrous oxide and CBD oils. Goo calls itself a smoke shop and says it and sells tobacco, smoking paraphernalia and other items, according to NBC affiliate WDIV of Detroit.

Select Distributors’ website says it sells butane wholesale, in boxes that contain 12 to 20 canisters, with some of the canisters containing 10 ounces of gas.

The volatile gas is used to refill lighters, but it’s also popular with often-illegal cannabis concentrate makers who spray butane into cylinders packed with marijuana to extract butane hash oil, the core of concentrated cannabis products that can pack potent highs when smoked, vaped or eaten.

The process has resulted in countless explosions, often involving illicit home labs.

The distributor also openly sells nitrous oxide, which is largely unregulated. It is not a Drug Enforcement Administration scheduled drug, and the Food and Drug Administration has approved it as a prescribed medication and as a propellant and aerator in dairy products, mainly whipped cream. Goo brands a nitrous product called Power Hitter, according to the Select Distributors website.

The gas, sometimes sold for recreational use at vape shops and adult bookstores, can also be explosive. Its use as an oxygenator in rocketry was connected to a 2007 accident at a facility at Mojave Air and Space Port in California that killed three people. That year in suburban Detroit, a suspect described as a distributor of recreational nitrous oxide was successfully prosecuted for improperly labeling nitrous oxide cylinders.

In Clinton Township, two business owners were taken to the police department Monday night and interviewed by the fire prevention division and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Duncan said. 

Witnesses affiliated with Select Distributors were cooperating with investigators, officials said at Tuesday evening’s news conference. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Duncan told reporters that the business had recently received a semi-load of butane containers and had “over half of that still left.” There were also pallets of nitrous, lighter fluid and over 100,000 vape pens that had lithium batteries inside them, he said.

Barry Miller, the township superintendent for building inspections, said at Tuesday night’s news conference that the location was the subject of one recent violation — improper storage of duck boats — which was corrected under a township warning. “We didn’t know the canisters were on-site,” he said.

WDIV reported that it received calls from…

Read More: One person killed after huge fire ignites Michigan warehouse, raining debris ‘as