Wake County

Fire destroys East Raleigh auto repair shop

Firefighters quickly knocked down a fire that engulfed an auto mechanic garage east of downtown Tuesday afternoon, but not before the blaze destroyed the business.

No injuries were reported.

Fire investigators had not yet determined what caused the fire at Safari Auto Works at 1900 Poole Road, according to Battalion Chief David Whitley. The fire was reported at 2:40 p.m.

Firefighters and emergency medical workers were en route to the blaze when a second caller phoned 911 to report large plumes of smoke cascading from the building. The caller also reported hearing loud explosions inside the burning building, Whitley said.

By the time firefighters arrived, the flames were “fully involved.” Investigators determined the explosions came from burning vehicle tires inside the repair shop.

“When one explodes, it scares you to death,” Whitley said.

Fire commanders called for a hazardous materials team to help control potential runoff from “years of grease, oil and gas,” Whitley said. “There was very little runoff. It was contained very quickly.”

Several people inside the building managed to escape unharmed, and residents who live in homes adjacent to the building were evacuated as a precaution.

Firefighters had the flames under control within 15 minutes of their arrival, but Whitley said the building is a total loss.

“They can’t do anything with this, but tear it down,” Whitley said.

Firefighters turned off electricity in the business and spent the rest of the afternoon checking for hot spots under the smoking debris.

Thomasi McDonald: 919-829-4533, @thomcdonald