Fire heavily damages two auto repair shops on Linseed Hill Road in West Hatfield

Last modified: Tuesday, August 25, 2015

HATFIELD — Two auto repair shops at 8A and 8B Linseed Hill Road in West Hatfield were heavily damaged by a fire reported at 2:45 p.m. Wednesday.

All of the employees of Quality Automotive and Indie Auto made it out of the burning building safely, according to the personnel at the scene, but the shop’s cat was unaccounted for as of 4 p.m., when most of the flames had been extinguished.

A pillar of black smoke could be seen rising above the site from Routes 5 and 10 and Interstate 91.

Firefighters initially tried to douse the flames using a ladder truck and water from a fire hydrant at the end of the road, but that did not provide adequate water. Firefighters then used a pumper shuttle to bring water up from Routes 5 and 10, according to Edwin McGlew, public information officer for the Hatfield Fire Department.

McGlew said the fire is believed to have started in the attic area of the two-bay corrugated metal building, but a cause had not been determined Wednesday evening pending an investigation by the state fire marshal’s office.

Todd and Anna Dextraze, owners of Quality Automotive at 8A Linseed Hill Road and owners of the building, monitored the scene from a nearby hill, surrounded by friends, neighbors and employees.

“It sucks, but we’re insured. We’ll rebuild,” said Todd Dextraze.

Dextraze and other employees described how they acted quickly to move vehicles off the lifts and out of danger. They were able to save two filing cabinets, a computer and some of the shop’s tools before the smoke and flames forced them to flee, said one employee who declined to provide his name.

That employee said he was alerted to the fire when the owner of Indie Auto asked if they were burning something inside their shop.

“He came over and asked if we were burning, and I said we weren’t, but he said ‘Well, there’s soot coming out of the vent,’ ” the employee said. “He went over and opened up the overhead door, and it was just smoke and flames. We could hear it crackling and we knew it was on fire.”

The employee said the shop had recently installed a new lift, which would likely be lost. At least two vehicles next to the Indie Auto side of the building also burned, and the remains of another car could be seen inside.

Employees of Quality Automotive were able to save all of their customers’ vehicles.

Dextraze said he started the auto repair business about 15 years ago, and the other half of the building has been occupied by Indie Auto, a shop specializing in Volvos and Saabs, for the past 2½ years.

Greg Lawrence, one of Indie Auto’s two owners, said he was unable to salvage any of the equipment in his shop.

“We have 100 percent loss — there’s nothing left,” Lawrence said. “No tools, no equipment, no lift, no nothing.”

Lawrence said he was out on a test drive and when he returned, his side of the building was filled with smoke. He was unable to get into his shop, and a vehicle that was inside was also lost in the fire.

At the same time, Lawrence said he and Indie Auto co-owner Brian Bucala will rebuild. He said they have been speaking with Todd Dextraze about renting another location.

“In two years we went from a few customers to 1,400 cars we service, so we’re by no means looking to close,” Lawrence said. “It sucks everything is gone ... Luckily everything is replaceable. It is just going to be crazy and tricky to replace a set of tools built over 20 years.”

Firefighters from Hatfield, Northampton, Deerfield, Whately and Conway responded.

Daily Hampshire Gazette staff writer Dave Eisenstadter contributed to this report.


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