Chesterton Tribune



Vehicle fire in Arnell Kia garage causes extensive damage

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A vehicle being serviced at Arnell Kia in Burns Harbor caught on fire late Wednesday and quickly spread up the walls and into the ceiling of the garage, in a blaze which prompted Fire Chief Bill Arney to call a second alarm.

The BHFD was dispatched at 11:17 p.m., Arney told the Chesterton Tribune today, and on firefighters’ arrival at the Kia facility at 241 U.S. Highway 20--separate from the Arnell Chevrolet facility--there was already heavy smoke in the building with flames coming from the windows.

Assisting the BHFD under a first alarm were the Porter, Chesterton, and Portage FDs. Thick black smoke, however, which severely limited firefighters’ visibility--caused by burning oil and vehicle tires--as well as the sheer size of the commercial building, led Arney to sound a second alarm, mustering the Ogden Dunes, South Haven, Beverly Shores, and Union Township departments.

“Vehicle fires usually generate more black smoke than regular structure fires,” Arney said.

Firefighters used around 1,500 gallons of water to douse the blaze, with three ladder trucks--BHFD’s, CFD’s, and Portage FD’s--positioned around the building for good coverage. Some overhaul was necessary to check for extension.

Arney has ruled the fire accidental and investigators have determined the source to be a 2015 Kia SUV which was in the shop for rust proofing and shield coating. But the specific cause itself--the fire appears to have begun not in the Kias engine compartment but at its rear--remained undetermined this morning.

After starting in the Kia, the fire extended to a nearby vehicle lift mechanism, ignited various shop materials, then traveled up the building’s walls to the ceiling, Arney said. The Kia itself was totaled, three other vehicles in the shop showed paint and smoke damage, and the ceiling lights were melted in the blaze. Overall the garage sustained “heavy” fire and smoke damage, Arney said, and the adjoining showroom “light to moderate” smoke damage. Total damage, very roughly estimated: “at least over $200,000.”

Arnell Kia was closed today, Arney said. Arnell Chevrolet was open for business.

The BHFD cleared the scene at 1:17 a.m.


Posted 5/15/2014