Fire destroys auto repair shop, forces evacuation

January 17, 1996|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,SUN STAFF

More than 100 firefighters battled a blaze that destroyed a Northeast Baltimore auto repair shop early yesterday and forced the evacuation of at least 20 rowhouses that were threatened by burning embers.

Damage to J&J Custom Auto Accessories was estimated at $1.3 million, including damage to more than a dozen cars and race cars inside the one-story brick building in the 1000 block of E. 25th St.

Firefighters fought the six-alarm fire for more than two hours. One firefighter hurt his ankle when he slipped on ice. He was treated at Union Memorial Hospital.

Battalion Chief Hector L. Torres said that the cars, fuel and oil propelled the blaze. Fire and arson investigators were trying to determine a cause.

The repair shop owner could not be reached for comment. But a message on the shop's answering machine informs customers of the extensive damage: "The building is totally destroyed. For customers who had their cars in the shop, I apologize for the inconvenience."

Firefighters got the first call at 2:22 a.m. Four alarms were struck within the next half-hour. "The fire spread very quickly," Chief Torres said, adding that flames pushed through the roof about 3 a.m.

Chief Torres said the building, which measures 100 by 100 feet and has 20-foot-high brick walls, showed signs of giving way midway through firefighters' efforts. "You could actually see cracking," he said, adding that commanders ordered firefighters to stay at least 20 feet from the walls.

A seafood company next door suffered minor smoke and water damage. Firefighters worked to keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes.

At least 20 Darley Avenue rowhouses share an alley with the back of the auto shop.

"Once the fire went through the roof, there was a real danger of those homes being exposed to fire," Chief Torres said. Two residents suffered smoke inhalation but did not go to the hospital. Their houses were not damaged.

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