Worker Describes How Garage Fire Started
PORT JERVIS — While the remains of his garage were still smoldering behind him, L&S Auto Sales owner David Lehman was sorting through a bunch of ignition keys spread out on the hood of one of his used cars that survived last Thursday's spectacular blaze. He and his employees had salvaged the keys from the office, and many had tags that were damaged by the fire or completely missing, making it tough to match the keys to the cars on the lot that survived the fire that destroyed his garage building on East Main Street last Thursday afternoon.
Fire departments from throughout the Tri-State quickly responded to the blaze, preventing the fire and smoke from spreading downwind to the senior housing apartments next door, where the occupants were quickly evacuated. Helping him go over the keys was an employee who just gave his name as "Bill."
Bill said before the fire broke out, he had a Chevy pickup on the lift in one of the bays and had attached straps to the truck's gas tank, preparing to remove it. One strap slipped and the tank fell, spilling gas on the floor and on Bill. He said gas splashed on his clothes and face. "I got two gallons of gas on me," he said. The gas spread across the floor toward a heater that was 25 feet away and somehow ignited.
He and other employees were lucky to get out unharmed, but the pickup truck and a Cadillac in the other bay of the small garage weren't so lucky. They were incinerated in a hot orange fireball. A couple of cars outside on the lot also got burned. "It [the tank] came out so fast; I was strapping it and …" Bill said.