Kar’s Nuts plant catches fire in Madison Heights

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 26, 2016

MADISON HEIGHTS — The Kar’s Nuts factory in Madison Heights had to close Sept. 15 when a fire broke out in the middle of the plant, but the fire was contained thanks to working sprinklers and a quick response by area fire departments. 

Around 60 workers had to evacuate the facilities on 14 Mile Road, between John R and Dequindre roads. There were no injuries. The fire started around 7 p.m. in the roughly 300-square-foot room where the stainless steel containers are washed for product distribution. Kar’s Nuts ships a variety of snack mixes and nuts to distributors across the nation.

Four fire departments arrived at the scene, including the Madison Heights Fire Department. Firefighters from a fifth fire department, Birmingham, filled in for Madison firefighters at Station No. 1, ready to take calls for any extra emergencies.

At press time, the investigation was ongoing, but Madison Fire Chief Greg Lelito said he suspects it was an issue with the insulation around the piping that exhausts heat in the washing room.

“It then extended to the ceiling,” Lelito said. “The sprinkler system activated, which contained the fire. We then went in and put out the remainder of the fire with our fire hoses. But it was the sprinklers that kept it in the room of origin.”

While the fire didn’t spread far, the entire building was filled with heavy smoke, which made for limited visibility. The firefighters had to open every window and door, set up fans to circulate the air, and even break out the skylights on the roof in order to vent the smoke. The whole process took several hours. The entire building sustained significant damage from smoke and water. A mitigation company came in immediately afterward to begin work on restoring the facilities.

The plant employs about 200 workers. There were no injuries reported. The company has reported that all of its equipment is in working order, and at press time, production was expected to resume the following week. In the meantime, authorities continued to investigate the cause of the fire. Lelito said it’s fortunate that the sprinklers worked as they should.

“It was manageable, it was smooth, but it just shows you what sprinklers can do,” Lelito said. “City code typically requires that a building over 12,000 square feet is sprinklered. If that building didn’t have working sprinklers, that fire would’ve definitely spread past the room of origin.”