Fire crews responded to a machine fire at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant July 9.

Fire crews responded to a machine fire at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant July 9.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Machine full of oil burns at Ford Axle Plant

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 9, 2019


Firefighters wasted no time getting the wheels rolling on putting out an early morning fire July 9 at the Ford Sterling Axle Plant, according to the Sterling Heights Fire Department.

Firefighters were called to the scene, near Mound and 17 Mile roads, around 4:43 a.m. on a report that a production machine had caught fire. They reportedly arrived around three minutes later, saw smoke and learned from workers that the burning machine contained 30,000 gallons of oil.

All five Sterling fire stations united to quell the blaze, but poor visibility and difficulty reaching the fire reportedly posed obstacles to completely putting it out. 

Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin didn’t give the machine’s precise size but called it “pretty big.” He explained some of the difficulties firefighters had with trying to put out the fire. 

“We couldn’t get into the machine, first off,” he said. “And then with the oil running — oil is hard to put out because it’s a combustible liquid. You can’t just put water on it. ... We had to get foam inside of the machine.”

When a second alarm was declared, the fire departments of Clinton Township, Shelby Township and Warren were called to assist. More than 40 firefighters eventually were involved in the mission. Meanwhile, firefighters from Fraser, Macomb Township, Roseville and Utica manned Sterling Heights’ fire stations.

Fire officials said foam helped control the fire by around 7:30 a.m. Authorities reported no injuries, and they are now investigating the fire’s origins. Martin said the investigators were still on scene as of noon that day, and he added that they were there to help Ford get back up and running.

Martin called the fire’s damage “significant,” with a lot of water and smoke damage, though he added that the smoke has been ventilated and the plant’s structure was not damaged.

In an emailed statement, Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker said workers were evacuated at the plant’s annex building early in the morning “when a system that supplies oil to machinery onsite caught fire,” but no one was injured. 

“While portions of the plant are closed for the traditional summer shutdown, this section was running,” Felker said.

Anyone who has more information about this incident is encouraged to contact the Sterling Heights Fire Department by calling (586) 446-2950.

Call Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at (586) 498-1058.