3-alarm inferno engulfs Greenland auto shop, dozens of vehiclesBy JASON SCHREIBER
February 24. 2018 1:10PM
GREENLAND — A three-alarm fire that engulfed Carter’s European Auto on Saturday morning set off numerous explosions and destroyed dozens of vehicles, fire officials said.
More than 50 firefighters from multiple communities battled the inferno, which broke out around 10 a.m. at the automotive shop located in a metal building at 437 Portsmouth Ave.
At one point, firefighters were ordered to get away from the burning building.
Deputy Chief of Operations Ted Hartmann said there were eight to 10 explosions in the center of the building.
“There was a pretty considerable fireball telling us that there was a high amount of petroleum products centralized,” he said.
Two people who were at the business at the time escaped injury along with several dogs. One firefighter was evaluated at the scene for an unknown issue, but wasn’t transported to the hospital, Hartmann said. No other injuries were reported.
The cause was not immediately known.
Travis Higgins of Hampton was working outside on some trim work on the front portion of the building that’s under renovation when the fire broke out. He walked around the corner of the building, saw the smoke pouring out and called 911.
He said he watched as a fireball blew through the roof during one of the explosions.
“I was just in shock. It was a nice peaceful day and it was turned upside down,” he said.
Hartmann said crews found heavy fire coming from the rear of the building when they arrived.
“The challenge was just how much fire load was in the building. We’ve got multiple spray-paint booths in there. It’s a mixed use with cars and paint and waste oil and a lot of propane storage around the side. There’s been a lot of unique things to this fire,” he said.
Hartmann said dozens of vehicles inside and outside burned in the blaze.
Neighbor Mary Martin, who lives across the street, said she heard a “big blast” as flames swept through the building.
“You could feel the heat way over here. I was afraid it was going to blow up because there’s so many chemicals over there,” she said as she sat on her front steps with her husband, Harry, and watched firefighters working the scene.
Linda Chetson, whose family owns the property and building that housed the automotive shop, lives in town and rushed to the scene.
“It was sad. It still is tough to see,” she said.
The front portion of the building is under renovation for Chetson’s lawn irrigation business called Rainscape Lawn Sprinkler Systems. It appeared firefighters were able to keep the fire from spreading into that section of the building.
The fire was brought under control within about 90 minutes, but firefighters were expected to remain at the scene for several hours as the building continued to smolder.