Machine catches fire at Ford Sterling Axle plant in Mich.

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DETROIT — Workers were evacuated from a portion of Ford Motor Co.’s Sterling Axle plant in suburban Detroit on Tuesday morning as firefighters battled a blaze around a production machine, the company and fire officials said.

Mark Docherty, battalion chief for the Sterling Heights (Mich.) Fire Department, told Automotive News on Tuesday that the fire was on the south side of the plant. The machine contained about 30,000 gallons of oil, which was on fire in addition to the machine, he said, and foam was needed to extinguish the fire. No injuries were reported.

“Fire damage was contained on the machine itself and did not spread to the building or other machines,” Docherty said, “although there was some further damage to the building due to ventilation of the fire, water and smoke. Due to limited visibility and size of the machine, it was difficult to extinguish.”

The 3-million-square-foot plant produces rear axles for the F-150, F-250, Expedition, Navigator, Mustang and Transit vehicles. It also manufacturers front axles for the F-150, Expedition and Navigator, as well as rear drive units for the Flex, MKT, Edge, MKC, Escape, Lincoln Continental, Fusion, MKZ, EcoSport and Kuga, according to Ford.

Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker told Automotive News on Tuesday that employees at the plant’s annex building were evacuated early this morning when a system that supplies oil to machinery caught fire. While portions of the plant are closed for the traditional summer shutdown, she said, that section is running.

Felker said the fire won’t cause any supply disruptions.

Lynda Girard, a machine operator at the plant, told Automotive News that the oil from a grinder machine caught fire around 3 a.m.

“It started in the filtration oil system and I guess they only have one filtration system for 15 machines,” she said. “That’s what caught on fire. Half of the plant is still working with smoke in the air.”

Girard was one of the employees who continued working Tuesday.

Ford says the plant was built in 1956 and employs about 2,400 workers, the majority of whom are hourly.

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