A fire blazes at Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, on Friday, Jan. 3. Photo by Mike Nichols
Orange flames — some appearing almost 10-feet high — shot into the freezing air Friday as a portion of a beloved West Michigan landmark was reduced to kindling.
Fifth Third Ballpark, home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, the Class A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers, was reported as being on fire at about 11 a.m. today, according to police at the scene.
All of the Plainfield Fire Department fire trucks had been called to the scene, and fire trucks from Grand Rapids, Alpine Township and possibly even Walker were also fighting the blaze, said Kathy Ensley, a department secretary, to the best of her knowledge.
There is no word yet on what caused the fire.
A large number of fire trucks and police arrived to battle the smoking blaze, which seemed to be burning parts of the stadium along the first baseline and right field.
Due to the dangerous nature of the flames, firefighters were forced to shoot water into the stadium, according to officials at the scene.
Fred Gilbert of Wolverine Building Group in Grand Rapids, the company that built the stadium, was at the stadium, saying that the fire was burning the suites along the first baseline.
Those suites are “all gone,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said that although he wasn’t sure, he guessed the stadium may still have to open in April.
Representatives of Belfor Property Restoration, which has the job of restoring the stadium when the fire is out, were also at the scene, but declined to comment.
Black smoke looming from the fire was visible from U.S. 131 North from Grand Rapids.
A number of locals wandered the outskirts of the property, watching in awe as firefighters fought to save the stadium.
The West Michigan Whitecaps are planning on the stadium being ready for the baseball season.
"Opening day is 95 days away, and we will be playing baseball!" according to the Whitecaps' Facebook page.