MONTCALM TOWNSHIP — Roughly 20 cars in a local auto salvage yard were engulfed by flame Saturday morning.
The fire at Bud’s Auto Parts at 4490 Montcalm Avenue in Gowen took more than two hours for firefighters from Montcalm Township, Spencer Township and the Greenville Department of Public Safety to put out.
According to Matt Nielsen, captain of the Montcalm Township Fire Department, the fire was already so big when they got the call at approximately 8:30 a.m., they could see smoke rising from it at their station just under five miles away.
When firefighters arrived on scene, the cars were already fully involved in the fire. Nielsen said the fire took so long to put out because of the flammable liquids inside the vehicles and the inherent danger of explosion those liquids caused.
Even when the flames did begin to die down, if they were met with any flammable liquids such as engine oil, transmission fluid, and hydraulic fluid from lift support arms, they were rekindled.
Several lift support arms from various vehicles exploded from the heat of the fire.
The cars were stacked in twos and were packed together in a fiery cube when firefighters arrived. Nielsen said they attempted to move the vehicles as they worked to extinguish flames and hot spots throughout the wreckage.
“There was 20 cars here and they are completely burnt,” Nielsen said.
There were no injuries reported as a result of the fire. Luckily, the flames did not spread to the nearby residence where the Playter family, which owns the shop, lives.
The immediate cause of the fire remains unknown at time of publication. An employee of the salvage yard, Larry Collins, said about 25 minutes before the fire, he had cut off a trailer hitch from a vehicle, something he’s done many times in the past without incident.
“I was down there, I cut it off, I stood there 15 minutes like I always do, looked everything over under that car, around that car, around the ground … didn’t smell nothing or anything,” he said. “It was probably 25 minutes later I was out in the back … and I look across and see a big ol’ black cloud.”
Collins said he tried to use a water tank they keep onsite to put out the fire, but drained the tank without making any discernible dent in extinguishing the flames.
“We did what we could do,” he said. “Accidents happen, I guess.”
Jean Playter said she was grateful for the quick response from firefighters and thankful they were able to get there in time to keep the fire from spreading to the nearby residence.
She said, though the cars involved in the fire are burned up and likely most of the parts are, too, they should still be able to crush the bodies for scrap.
“I was really grateful for the firemen to come in and knock it down the way they did,” she said.