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Commercial fire damage estimated at $550,000

By Staff | Feb 11, 2010

A fire gutted an automotive repair shop Thursday morning in southeast Cape Coral, causing more than $550,000 in damages, officials said.
No one was injured, according to officials.
Cape fire units responded to a call of a commercial structure fire at 10:17 a.m. at Stan’s Auto Repair, located at 1024 S.E. 12th Ave. When firefighters arrived on scene the building was “fully engulfed in flames,” said Division Chief Jim Heikkila of the Cape Coral Fire Department.
At least 22 firefighters, plus some off-duty personnel who responded to the scene, went into defensive mode, he said. Crews were placed at the front and back of the building to battle the fire, but no one went inside it.
“It wasn’t safe to send anyone into the structure,” Heikkila said.
An employee from the shop reported that the building was empty, he said.
Four vehicles inside the structure were “fully engulfed,” along with office storage materials. It took about 30 minutes to put out the fire, and seven units from five fire stations responded to the call.
Heikkila estimated that the damage was a “total loss.”
“When you get something burning for that big for that long, it’s gone for sure,” he said at the scene.
City spokeswoman Connie Barron said the fire caused about $550,000 in damage and was caused by a spark near a fuel tank under a lift inside the building.
The fire was ruled accidental following an investigation by the fire department.
“The building was a complete loss,” she said.
No injuries were reported.
Responders were able to contain the fire to the initial structure, though firefighters had to secure a large propane tank located next to the shop’s property to protect it from the fire and prevent it from possibly exploding.
Heikkila estimated that the tank was at least 1,000 gallons.
“But it never got to that,” he said, adding that the propane tank may not have been full.
Kathy Gagne, an employee of MAC Custom Pools and Aluminum, was working alone in the office when she heard the sirens Thursday morning. MAC Custom Pools and Aluminum is located at 1020 S.E. 12th Ave., next door to Stan’s Auto Repair.
“I just looked out the front of the store and saw all the trucks,” she said of the responding fire units.
Gagne said she was told to stay put but be prepared to evacuate.
“There were flames coming through the roof,” she said. “And the smoke … I could tell it was fully involved.”
Gagne later spoke with Stan, the owner of the shop, who said he was not at the store when the fire broke out. Only one person was present working on a vehicle, Gagne said she was told.
According to Barron, staff from the city’s Economic Development Office planned to contact the owner of the shop to determine if he needs any help.
Staff could help with inspections or permitting associated with relocating.
“Our economic development people may have contacts for other property owners who have space available,” Barron said, adding that the city wants to make the process of relocating run as “smoothly and quickly” as possible for the shop owner.
“It’s just a change in philosophy that is now in place,” she said. “We did that with a recent fire that occurred on Del Prado (Boulevard) with a bakery over there.”
According to Barron, the city’s Economic Development Office now contacts business owners immediately after a fire to offer help rather than waiting on the owners to contact the office to see what aid and services are available.
“We want to take care of the businesses that are in the Cape,” she said. “If we can help businesses that are in the Cape stay in the Cape, then we’re going to do that.”
The State Fire Marshal responded to the fire and Cape police provided support and security, Barron said. The Lee County Electric Cooperative disconnected the electricity to the building and the city’s building inspector red-tagged the structure.