Cause undetermined in fire that destroyed two auto repair shops in Hatfield

Last modified: Friday, August 07, 2015

HATFIELD — The state fire marshal’s office has determined a fire that destroyed two auto repair shops on Linseed Hill Road on Wednesday started in the attic of one of the shops, but investigators were unable to determine the exact cause.

James DiSimone, a spokesman for the fire marshal’s office, said the damage to the building was too extensive to confirm what started the blaze, which broke out around 2:45 p.m. Wednesday and leveled the two-bay garage and torched a handful of cars.

The building was owned by Quality Automotive owner Todd Dextraze, who rented half of it to another repair shop, Indie Auto.

Employees and firefighters on the scene said they believed the cause may have been faulty electrical equipment or wiring.

“They’re calling it undetermined. There was so much damage they can’t say if it was definitely electrical malfunction,” said DiSimone. “If Quality Automotive wants to hire an electrician to figure it out, that’s up to them.”

At the scene of the fire Wednesday, Dextraze and Greg Lawrence, one of Indie Auto’s two owners, each said they would rebuild and reopen their shops. Dextraze said he started the auto repair business about 15 years ago, and began renting part of the building to Indie Auto, a shop specializing in Volvos and Saabs, 2½ years ago.

Lawrence said he was test-driving a car Wednesday afternoon and returned to find his side of the building filled with smoke. He alerted employees at Quality Automotive, who discovered flames and more smoke in the attic.

The smoke prevented Lawrence from accessing his shop and he was unable to save any of his equipment or a car inside, he said Wednesday.

Dextraze and other employees had more time and were able to move customers’ vehicles off the lifts and out of the building and save some tools and office equipment, according to an employee.

Firefighters initially used a ladder truck and water from a fire hydrant at the end of the road to fight the fire, but the water was inadequate so the departments used a tanker shuttle to bring water up from Routes 5 and 10, according to Edwin McGlew, public information officer for the Hatfield Fire Department.

Hatfield, Northampton, Williamsburg, Deerfield, Sunderland, Whately and Conway fire departments responded.

Gazette Staff Writer Rebecca Everett contributed to this story.


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