Randy Mitchell Special Correspondent
Ada — After only a few months since a grand reopening, Autozone auto parts store was destroyed by a fire Friday which caused more than a million dollars in damage.
Firefighters were called to the building in the 800 block N. Broadway at 2:17 a.m. after smoke was reported coming from the building. Upon arrival, firefighters saw “a lot of smoke coming from the building and flames visible along the east wall roof area,” Assistant Chief Rob Johnson said in a report. “The ladder truck was set up on the south side of the store and was used to extinguish the fire along the east wall roof area. Two different areas on the roof showed structural abnormalities.”
Fire officials believe the intense heat from the fire caused metal beams to expand and crack the building’s masonry walls, making it structurally unsound. While battling the blaze, two fire engines were connected to hydrants. “(Incident command) advised central to notify the water plant that two different trucks would be hooked up to hydrants, (so they) may want to boost pressure,” Johnson said.
Public works was called in to plug a storm drain before water — mixed with oil and toxic chemicals from the fire — could enter, causing environmental damage. Firefighters knocked down the majority of the fire from the outside before entering the building.
“Firefighters did make entry to extinguish small spot fires,” Johnson said. “Command notified all firefighters at the scene that each corner of the building had structural cracks and to avoid these areas if possible.”
Firefighters extinguished the blaze, but officials had to wait for the building to cool down before conducting an investigation. Ada Fire Marshal Justin Priest spoke with store management.
“(Store Manager Thomas) Sims said the store had been having electrical problems with the sign outside and with battery chargers tripping breakers,” Priest said. “He said they thought the battery charger problem had been fixed, but the sign would still trip the breakers.”
After the building cooled later in the morning, Priest returned for an investigation.
“I found that in the northeast part of the building there was heavy fire damage,” Priest said. “The breaker panels to the store were in this area. It appeared the fire originated in the area of the electrical panels. The cause of the fire is accidental.”
Fire officials said damage to the building was estimated at $1,100,000. The pre-incident value was $1,125,000. Damage to the contents of the building was estimated at $600,000, which was the value of all contents.