Sterling Heights, Buff Whelan Chevrolet Dealership Fire

Buff Whelan Chevrolet in Sterling Heights, Michigan decided to reopen their doors three days ago, on July 19, 2017, despite the fact that one of their service buildings caught fire the night before. The fire spread, burning up the body shop and more than 20 vehicles. The Van Dyke Ave. car dealership has been a large part of the community for at least 20 years and many of their customers and neighbors were in shock to see the building in flames. The blaze was so massive that fire and police departments from surrounding communities worked together to close down 18 Mile Road and reroute drivers and onlookers away from the area. People as far as 5 miles away claimed to have seen the smoke caused by the fire. 

Michigan Fire Injury Attorney

How The Buff Whelan Fire Started

The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is believed that the cleaning crew accidentally started the fire around 7:30 PM on July 18, after a floor buffer came in contact with some flammable floor cleaning solution. Some sources have even speculated that the floor chemical solution spread to wiring, causing an electrical fire. Sterling Heights Fire Chief Chris Martin says from there, the fire spread quickly and set the vehicles and body shop on fire. This unfortunate incident is now being ranked as the largest fire in Sterling Heights history.

Tom Bechtel, the Sales Manager at Buff Whelan said he saw the smoke from his house but, didn’t realize the smoke was coming from his workplace. “The flames were unbelievable and the smoke — I can’t believe a service facility would burn like that...Unbelievable.” said Bechtel.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Whelan have expressed their gratitude to the fire departments that helped save their business and to the public for their support and concern and issued a statement saying that it is, “business as usual” and that they still have the inventory and accommodations to service their clients through their website and in person, while repairs are being made. 

A Few Fire Safety Tips

Structure and mercantile property fires, like the one at Buff Whelan Chevrolet, account for 41% of civilian deaths and 31% of civilian injuries. These fires are more common than people realize and many companies don't specifically train employees on what to do in case of fire, other than to call 911. Or even if companies do train their employees on fire safety, many people tend to fall asleep during the lecture or are unable to recall the long ago training when it comes to an actual fire or fire drill. For those people, here are a few fire safety tips to brush up on, supplied by BullEx, an expert fire safety company.

Source: GIPHY, TruTV's South Beach Towing

  • Declutter - Paper, candy wrappers, spare clothing, and even those old and forgotten Halloween decorations left in the bottom drawer can be potential fuel for a fire to spread. Keeping work spaces clean can help keep small flames from becoming massive. 
  • Update Technology - Make sure any machinery, even cleaning machinery, is up to date in repairs. No need for loose wiring or a motor going haywire and causing a fire, as is suspected in the Buff Whelan Chevrolet fire. 
  • Read Safety Labels - Always be careful when mixing, using, and storing chemicals. Refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet that is oftentimes located on the the back label or lower right corner of the item to determine its flammability. 
  • Electrical Maintenance - Any faulty or electrical hazards should immediately be reported. BullEx warns that any electrical maintenance or repair should only be handled by a licensed professional. 
  • Don't Smoke! - Those “Do Not Smoke” signs are placed there for a reason! Those out on a smoke break should only use smoking designated areas, not because people are picking on smokers, but for safety reasons such as potential fire hazards nearby or setting off fire alarms and sprinklers. 
  • Security - No matter how big or small the workplace is, suspicious items, people, and areas should be reported to prevent potential arsonists from setting a life threatening fire. 
  • Fire Extinguishers - Businesses should supply employees or a designated employee(s) with instructions on how to work a fire extinguisher, just in case of a fire. Employees should also know where all emergency fire exits are located in their workplace and should always keep possible escape routes clear. These fire safety measures could be essential to saving lives and avoiding fire injuries.

Of course, fires can occur for a many number of reasons. By following these fire safety tips however, employees may be able to avoid some fires caused by human error. Thankfully, aside from the 20 or so cars, no humans were injured in the Buff Whelan Chevrolet fire. It does warm the heart however, to see how the Sterling Heights and other Metro Detroit communities came to the aid of a local business during such a crisis.


Fires don't just happen in buildings. Cars fires also occur when automobiles are involved in motor vehicle accidents. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, call The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC. Our highly experienced staff is always available to speak to victims of car accidents. Call us today, at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free and fair legal consultation. 

Up To 13 People May Die On The Job Everyday

Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

June is National Safety Month. This designation was established by the National Safety Council as a special recognition dedicated to reducing the leading causes of injury and death, at work, on the road, and in homes and communities. In 2014, according to the Bureau of Labor’s Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, 4,821 people died while on the job. This number equates to more than 13 people dying per day - a shocking statistic that is more frequent than people realize. While those working in an office job may be less at risk than those doing manual labor, knowledge of safety in the workplace benefits everyone.

The top 5 occupations that experience the largest number of workplace injuries, and as a result, more days away from work are:

Top 5 Jobs That Cause Workplace Injuries

  1. Public servants such as firefighters and police officers
  2. Transportation and shipping workers
  3. Manufacturing and production employees
  4. Installation, maintenance, and repair men
  5. Construction workers

The dangerous nature of these occupations shouldn't come as a surprise since exposure to machinery and heavy physical activity on the job are more likely to cause harm than operating a computer behind a desk.

While there are differences between these occupations, they share some consequential injuries.

Common Types of Workplace Injuries

Source: GIPHY, Live Leak

Source: GIPHY, Live Leak

  1. Overexertion can occur with heavy lifting and lowering, and from repetitive motions. This can cause workers to become tired and susceptible to making injurious mistakes, like hammering their hands instead of a nail on a maintenance job.
  2. Contact with objects or equipment also causes injuries, when people are struck by the object/equipment, caught or compressed by the object/equipment, or struck, caught, or crushed in a collapsing structure, equipment, or material. This type of injury is frequent on construction sites when people are injured by heavy machinery.
  3. Slip and falls, either on the same level or to a lower level, result in 25% of workplace injuries. Examples include, a painter slipping on a wet tarp, firefighters tripping over a hose, or construction workers carrying large and heavy items not being able to see and avoid a pile of bricks in their way. 
  4. In general, any employees in these hazardous jobs may be kept away from work because of strains, sprains, tears, soreness, pain, cuts, lacerations, and punctures, resulting in missed days and difficulties returning to the workplace. 

You never know when you may be in a situation to help an injured coworker. Therefore, learning how to recognize injuries and being safe on the job is a smart precaution. It's also important to know how to prevent these types of workplace injuries from happening in the first place. Below are some safety tips for employees at work:

How To Avoid Workplace Accidents

  1. Avoid bending, reaching, and twisting when lifting heavy objects.
  2. Take short breaks frequently to minimize exertion.
  3. Store heavy objects close to the floor.
  4. Be aware of moving objects and equipment in and around work areas.
  5. Wear the proper personal protective gear.
  6. Place the base of ladders on an even, solid surface. 
  7. Use good housekeeping practices.
Source: GIPHY

Source: GIPHY

This June, help spread awareness in your workplace as part of National Safety Month. At work, taking safety steps now, may help in the long run. Office and desk workers should also be mindful of professionals working more physical or dangerous jobs, keeping a safe distance from them and alerting emergency personnel if a workplace injury occurs. Safety doesn’t just stop when you leave your car or home, it must continue at work, as well. No employee wants to endure the pain and suffering that comes with a workplace accident. At the very least, the image of their boss in the back of an ambulance might scare people enough to brush up on workplace safety. 


Workplace injuries are much more common than people think. National Safety Month in June is helping spread awareness of safety on the job, in order to keep people off the stretcher and on their feet. If you or someone you know has experienced a workplace injury, contact The Michigan Law Firm, PLLC at 844.4MI.FIRM for a free consultation.