Dropped shop light sparks fire, destroys auto repair businesses

Friday, October 8, 2010
Mulling over his options for the future was Dan Smith, standing in front of the remains of what had been his auto repair shop. Anna Mathews / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- A fire Wednesday morning gutted several auto repair businesses when a dropped shop light reportedly smashed and ignited a pool of gasoline and the automobile on a lift above.

Dan Smith, who has the Action Automotive repair shop at the Kings River bridge, said he and two other mechanics shared the shop building owned by James Garrett.

The other mechanics had a Buick LaSabre, believed to be a 1989 model, on a lift, he said, and when the "condensed" bulb broke on the floor below it ignited the gasoline which spread to the LaSabre's gas tank. He said there was a small explosion and the car erupted in flames.

"It went up quick," he said of the destroyed structure.

By "moving fast," Smith said he was able to get his tool box, gas powered welding unit and two vehicles out of the building before it was completely engulfed, but his $8,000 mechanical scanner burned in the blaze.

Smith said he did not have insurance to cover his loss.

The other mechanics, one known as Edgar Lopez and the other as Freddy, sustained cuts and scratches in the explosion. Freddy, according to those at the scene, was transported to a medical facility by private vehicle before emergency responders arrived. He reportedly sustained a burn on his arm and singed hair.

Garrett, the owner of the property, which had been a concrete plant and gravel yard in the past, said he did not have insurance on the building.

Garrett confirmed that he had rented it to the mechanics about a year ago.

Berryville volunteer firefighters were dispatched to the scene at 10:12 a.m. Wednesday.

Carl Goins, spokesperson for the department, said they remained on the scene for three hours. Eureka Springs firefighters assisted by bringing a tanker of water to help fight the blaze. Goins said there were no fire hydrants on the property or nearby because there is no rural water service available.

Smith, in the meantime, was looking over his destroyed auto repair shop and considering his options.

"I'll go to work," he said, "but I don't know what I will do."

He said he was thankful no one was seriously injured but noted he was a little disheartened as well.

"I've told them more than once to use neon lights when working with gas," he commented. "Neon won't explode when dropped. It's more of a safety thing."

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