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West Michigan stadium catches fire

Flames go up along Fifth Third Ballpark's first-base side
January 3, 2014

Update 1:25 p.m. ET: Plainfield Township fire chief David Peterson told WOOD that a lack of fire hydrants near Fifth Third Ballpark hampered the firefighters' ability to put out the fire quickly. Earlier reports indicated that up to seven fire engines at the scene experienced weakened water pressure, and the fire department will plan to add more hydrants in the near future. 

Update 1:15 p.m. ET: The Whitecaps have indicated via an unidentified WOOD source that they plan to be ready to open to the public by their home opener, April 8 vs. Wisconsin, 95 days away. (The club opens the 2014 season on the road, April 3-6 in Dayton.)

Reports also indicate that there were 30 club employees inside the park at the time of the fire, and all 30 evacuated safely. The fire started at 11 a.m. local time, and reports indicate at least half of the ballpark's suites have been lost in the fire. However, much of the ballpark was not damaged by the fire, including the team's front office and ticket areas.

Scott Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, released a statement saying the organization is still hopeful they can stage the annual Winter Beer Festival at Fifth Third Ballpark's parking lot on Feb. 22.

Update 12:45 p.m. ET: On local WOOD's broadcast, Plainfield Township fire chief David Peterson said the following about the still-blazing fire at Fifth Third Ballpark:

"We're trying to get in front of it. For whatever reason the sprinkler system isn't holding it back. We're using aerials [aerial hoses from ladders] from the exterior -- the fire has weakened the roof and structure so that we're not going to put people inside."

(12:28 p.m. ET) Parts of Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps, caught fire Friday morning, according to multiple reports. No injuries have been reported.

The blaze was said to have begun along the suites on the first base side of the Plainfield Township, Mich., park. WZZM's Hannah Saunders later reported that the east side stands had in fact caved in.

Whitecaps director of marketing and media Mickey Graham, reached just before noon by's Benjamin Hill, said that the fire was "significant." He added that the team had no information to pass along at this time but would do so as soon as they were able.

"We were in the office [when the fire broke out]," said Graham. "We don't know the cause, but everyone was evacuated from the stadium."

The stadium was set to host the 50th Midwest League All-Star Game on June 17 of the upcoming season. The team's first home game is scheduled for April 8, although it might be a while before the team is able to assess how the season will be affected by the fire damage.