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Published: Sunday, 7/15/2012

Sanders ex-offices, bakery lost to blaze near Detroit

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Smoke billows from the 100,000-square-foot Sanders Confectionery complex in Highland Park, Mich. The fire was under control by late Saturday morning. Smoke billows from the 100,000-square-foot Sanders Confectionery complex in Highland Park, Mich. The fire was under control by late Saturday morning.
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HIGHLAND PARK, Mich. — A piece of Michigan history went up in flames Saturday as fire raced through the former Sanders Confectionery headquarters and bakery in Highland Park.

Thick gray smoke could be seen at least 10 miles away hours after the fire was reported about 5:30 a.m.

Crews from Highland Park, Detroit, and Hamtramck had brought the blaze in the 100,000-square-foot building under control by late morning and prevented it from spreading.

The factory had produced Sanders treats for decades before closing a number of years ago as the company hit tough financial times.

It was vacant at the time of the fire and no injuries were reported.

"There's foam and pallets inside there, so it's just combustible materials," Fire Chief Derek Hillman told WWJ-AM. "There's no danger to the citizens."

The cause of the fire was under investigation.

Sanders Chocolates opened in Detroit before 1900 and grew to more than 57 stores. The company sold candy, baked goods, fudge toppings, and other treats, according to its Web site.

Michigan-based Morley Candy now makes Sanders chocolate and desserts.

"Back in the day, it was an institution," Nicholas Becharas, whose family owns and operates a coffee grinding factory near the old Sanders building, said of Sanders.

"I've been through this plant many, many times as a child, as a teen," Mr. Becharas told the Detroit News on Saturday. "And to see it now compared to what I remember of it in its heyday is very sad. It was sad when they left and it's sad to see it go like this."

Firefighters in Detroit also had been busy late Friday with a blaze that started in an abandoned school before spreading to a dry field and two vacant houses.

The school fire appeared to be of suspect origin, according to fire officials who told WXYZ-TV that blazes have occurred at the building for at least eight years.



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