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GRFD, police investigating cause of fire on Wealthy Street

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Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-14 20:46:15-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids Fire Department spent Monday morning putting out a fire at a business on Wealthy and Henry Streets.

Local resident Benjamin George Wilkes smelled it when he went outside at 4:30 a.m.

“As soon as I walked out of the house, we smelled the smoke. We walked down Wealthy, we could see the smoke and smell it,” said Wilkes near the site of the fire. “Toward the back here you can see the flames. They were just putting out. There were three ladder trucks there.”

GRFD said when they got the call about the fire at 1:27 a.m. at Tatum Bookbinding, they were there within three minutes. Immediately upon arrival, they noticed there was a fire on the first floor and that it was moving throughout the two-story building fast.

“There appears to have been a lot of material that was stored within the commercial building that contributed to the movement of this fire,” said GRFD LT. William Smith during a Zoom interview. “Based on the observations of the fire crews there, it was deemed important for them to evacuate the building.”

When they searched the building, there were no occupants inside, he said. Also, no one was injured.

It took several hours to put out the fire. However, GRFD said they do not know at this time what caused it or if it was arson.

“A human factor has not been ruled out in the initial sequence for this fire. The investigator, reading through the narratives and talking with personnel, asked for additional resources including the Grand Rapids Police Department detective unit,” Lt. Smith said. “So, they will be cooperating with us trying to find the reason for this fire to have happened this morning.”

Demolition crews were at the site for a few hours tearing down what was left of the building. Hundreds of bricks, cinder blocks, slabs of charred wood, and debris now fill the space.

Local resident Kerry Baldwin was shocked to see it all. She said she learned about what happened on FOX 17's morning show, and made sure to see it for herself around noon.

“It was a big brick building and the windows were all boarded up,” Baldwin said. “It’s very sad. This is a historic district any time you lose a building its really tragic.”

***For tips of information about the fire, click here for the Silent Observer.***