Cause determined in Salem auto shop fire


Salem fire officials say static electricity during routine car work caused a fire two weeks ago at an auto shop.

Two people were injured in the fire at Professional Auto towing and service on June 6.

“It was so fast. I mean the way it went it was so fast,” said owner Butch Christian.

“My biggest concern was them. I knew the insurance would cover the garage, but I’ve never had anybody hurt before in my 32 years here.”

Christian says they’re both out of the hospital and on the road to recovery.

Fire officials say the cause of the fire that caused about $700,000 was static electricity.

“We always worry about static with clothing, but I never thought it would jump to the bottom of the car like that,” said Christian.

Salem’s Fire Chief John Prillaman says mechanics were draining fuel from a car to work on a pump when it happened.

“It’s something that probably happens every day in car shops. It’s just this one time that static from that fuel flowing through the air caused that spark,” said Chief Prillaman.

To prevent anything like this from happening again, Christian says he’s going to be adding new features to their new building.

“I’m going to put in a static line this time. I’ve never even heard of a static line in the new building. And I’m also going to put in a sprinkler system in,” Christian said.

But before he can rebuild, Christian says they’re working out of the building next door starting in July. They are currently running their towing service.

Since the fire, Christian says the community support has been overwhelming.

“It’s been great, and that’s one of the reasons I’m going to put it back.”

Christian says he hopes to have his shop rebuilt in the next 10 to 12 months. The two employees who were injured are both expected to come back to work. One will be back as soon as Monday and the other sometime in July.

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