[cifnmedia] Electrical problem caused blaze

  • From: "George Mc Grath" <gmcgrath@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Sean Aaron" <cifn@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>, <cifnmedia@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2004 12:29:35 -0700

Published September 2, 2004

Electrical problem caused blaze
Spartan Oil fire burned inches from oil tanks

By Stefanie Murray 
Lansing State Journal

      (ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal)
      Three buildings lost: Damage is surveyed Wednesday in the aftermath of 
Tuesday's fire at Spartan Oil Corp. in Lansing.

      Spartan Oil Corp.

      . Founded: 1953

      . Business: Distributes petroleum lubricant products including motor oils 
to 5,100 customers in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana

      . Locations: Lansing, Allen Park and Muskegon

      . Local employees: 70

      . 2003 sales: $38 million

An electrical problem with a heating unit used to thin oil caused the massive 
blaze at Lansing's Spartan Oil Corp., which destroyed two of the firm's five 
buildings and heavily damaged a third, fire officials said Wednesday.

The flames came within inches of two of Spartan's 27 on-site oil holding tanks, 
said president Bruce Maguire III, whose company distributes petroleum 
lubricants to clients in Michigan, Indiana and Ohio.

A layer of foam was the only thing that stood between the fire and thousands of 
gallons of oil.

"As bad as this was, it could have been absolutely catastrophic," Lansing Fire 
Chief Greg Martin said.

The oil tanks on Spartan's more than three-acre property at 421 E. Elm St. sit 
near a residential neighborhood and just south of I-496's bridge over Cedar 
Street and the Grand River.

Fire officials said the problem was "electrical in nature" having to do with a 
heating unit covering an oil tote. But since it's burned so badly, they can't 
determine whether it was a malfunction in the unit itself or with the outlet it 
was plugged in to.

All 16 of Lansing's first line rigs responded to the full-alarm fire, Martin 
said, as well as a crash fire rescue vehicle from Capital City Airport, which 
supplied much of the foam. Foam also was trucked in from Delta Township.

Spartan's 70 local employees reported to work as usual Wednesday, Maguire said, 
and the company was operating at close to 90 percent capacity.

Spartan officials will meet today to hash out a rebuilding plan and take stock 
of the situation.

"We will rebuild here," said Joseph Maguire, who co-owns Spartan with brother 
Bruce III and their father, Bruce Jr. "We want to keep this a Lansing business."

Although Spartan expects to be operating at close to 100 percent capacity by 
today, the Maguires said some work - but not employees - may be shifted to 
their other two facilities in Allen Park and Muskegon.

Because the company's main warehouse and bulk plant were not damaged, Spartan 
is able to keep its operations running as usual. The buildings that were 
destroyed are not vital to the operation, the Maguires said.

One of the ruined buildings was a 4,000-square-foot warehouse that stored small 
totes of motor oil. The second burned structure was a 2,000-square-foot repair 

Spartan owners initially thought a 1,000-square-foot office building northwest 
of the blaze was saved, but Joseph Maguire said they realized in the daylight 
that it had too much water damage.

"That's too bad, too, because that building was our original headquarters," he 
said. "We will have to think of some way to commemorate it."

Contact Stefanie Murray at 377-1016 or stamurray@xxxxxxxx

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