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Space Heater Likely Caused Michigan Ballpark Fire

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PLAINFIELD TWP. (WWJ/AP) - Authorities say a space heater used by a work crew likely caused a fire that destroyed multiple suites and a partial roof collapse at a western Michigan minor league ballpark.

Plainfield Township Fire Chief David Peterson says the heater started a small fire Friday morning at the Fifth Third Ballpark, but workers thought they had extinguished it. They later returned to find an entire area in flames.

Peterson says a sprinkler system was deactivated earlier Friday because of a false alarm. The response also was slowed by a lack of fire hydrants near the park. Firefighters were forced to extend hoses to other hydrants about 1,500 feet away, which created low water pressure.

Smoke from the fire was visible from miles away. Peterson said the ballpark’s first-base side was “pretty much destroyed.” Multiple suites that run from home plate down the first base line were completely destroyed, Peterson added. Luckily, no one was injured.

The ballpark near Grand Rapids is home to the West Michigan Whitecaps, an affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. Whitecaps co-owner Denny Baxter says officials plan to rebuild in time for opening day in April.

Fifth Third Ballpark, which opened in 1994 as Old Kent Park and changed to its current name in 2000, is scheduled to host the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game in June.

It also has hosted concerts and high school football games, and during the holidays, a Christmas light display is set up in the parking lot.

“We certainly hope for the best for all parties involved,” the Detroit Tigers said in a press release. “The Tigers look forward to attending the Whitecaps annual baseball banquet later this month as part of the annual Detroit Tigers Winter Caravan.”

TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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