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August 5, 2014

Explosion rocks Kroger store

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

A leak in a natural gas line likely caused an explosion that sparked a fire at the Kroger store at Long Lake and Livernois just after 10 p.m. Aug. 4.

No one was hurt in the incident, but the store will remain closed until Kroger’s structural engineers, Troy fire officials and Consumers Energy officials complete the investigation and give the “all clear” to reopen, said Ken McClure, consumer communications manager for Kroger Co.’s Michigan division. “We do not have an ETA on the store opening at this time,” he said.

“As soon as we have the all-clear we will open the store.”

He said customers are advised to shop and direct pharmacy needs to the Kroger stores at John R and Big Beaver, and at 18 Mile and Dequindre in the interim.

Troy Assistant Fire Chief David Roberts said Troy firefighters arrived at the store at 31 E. Long Lake after the fire alarm sounded at 10:02 p.m. Roberts said the explosion occurred in the rear of the store in the loading and docking area, sparking a fire in the rear of the store, blowing out the front doors and causing damage throughout.

Roberts said fire officials suspected a severed gas line in the store may have caused the fire and explosion, but the matter remains under investigation.

McClure said the store manager detected a natural gas leak at the rear of the store, opened the rear doors, and “following protocol, contacted Consumers Entergy and Kroger facility engineering.”

According to reports, Consumers Energy officials told the store manager to evacuate the store. They said there was no one inside the store when the explosion occurred.

Debra Dodd, spokesperson for Consumers Energy said the the company is cooperating in the investigation.
Firefighters and the store sprinkler system extinguished the blaze quickly, and firefighters checked adjacent stores for any damage and found none, according to reports.

Firefighters remained on the scene for two hours. McClure said Consumers Energy crews arrived onsite at 10 p.m. and shut off the gas, and the explosion occurred  “shortly thereafter.”

Detroit Edison also arrived on the scene and disconnected power to the store.

Roberts said that building inspectors from SAFEbuilt, the city’s contracted building inspection firm, inspected the store and met with a structural engineer, restoration contractors and Kroger representatives the morning of Aug. 5.

Roberts said the structural engineer will provide documentation on the structural integrity of the sales floor area.

He added that concerns exist due to the concussion created by the explosion that traveled above the ceiling.

“Troy Fire Department investigators discovered a broken natural gas line inside the building. Upon interviewing store employees, who reported hearing a hissing sound and smelling natural gas, thus the original call to Consumers Energy, and upon viewing store security video with Kroger representatives, a hi-lo can be seen striking the wall where the gas line was attached,” Roberts said in a prepared statement.

  “Kroger representatives and fire investigators are confident the cause of the explosion was due to a natural gas leak inside the building caused by damage to the gas line from the hi-lo.

“SAFEbuilt inspectors will re-inspect when notified by contractors that repairs to the sales floor are completed, at which time Kroger employees will be allowed to enter the sales floor area only,” Roberts said.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.