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Fire breaks out at Starr Automotive Friday

Farmington and Lakeville fire departments responded to a ceiling fire at Starr Automotive in Farmington Friday morning. FFD captain Adam Fischer was at the shop when the fire broke out. Starr Automotive is owned by his father, Ed Fischer.

Fires seem to get put out pretty quickly when a firefighter is on the scene before they start.

Farmington Fire Station 1 captain Adam Fischer was at Starr Automotive - owned by his dad, Ed Fischer - when a fire broke out Friday morning in the attic, near a chimney on the south side of the building.

Fischer had just stopped in to his dad's shop for a quick visit before heading to work. He walked into the back of the shop and saw a little smoke. An employee asked if he smelled something burning. He did.

"I looked toward the ceiling, and sure enough, there were flames shooting out of the ceiling," Fischer said.

He grabbed a nearby ladder and a fire extinguisher and tried to put the fire out. The fire was too hot, though, and kept restarting.

Fischer had left his fire department radio in his truck, so he did the old fashioned thing - he called 911 on his cell phone. He'd seen enough of the fire to know it would have to be attacked from both below and above, so he requested a ladder truck from Lakeville, too.

"I knew if it got out of hand, we would have to ventilate the roof and we would have needed the ladder truck so I just started them too because I didn't know how far it was going to go. I figured we could just get them coming right away," he said.

Farmington's Engine 1 was the first to arrive, but fire marshal John Powers chose not to use that truck because firefighters could not get proper water pressure running in the truck. Engine 2, from Station 2 on Pilot Knob Road, arrived minutes later. Firefighters had water on the fire within nine minutes of receiving the page, Powers said.

When crews arrived, thick black smoke was visible through the south side of the building. Two hose lines were laid off of Engine 2 and run through an access point into the attic of the building.

Once the flames were knocked down, firefighters ripped out insulation and inspected the attic to make sure the fire was out. Firefighters cleared the scene in less than two hours.

Powers cites a malfunctioning heating unit as cause of the fire. Though the garage had several vehicles inside, none of the cars or building contents were damaged. He estimated the fire did $10,000 in damage.

"It was strictly structure damage and damage to the heating unit," he said.

Fischer knows he was in the right place at the right time. It could have been much worse, he said.

"I'm just glad it happened during the day and not at night," Fischer said. "If it had happened at night we could have lost the shop."

Farmington building official Ken Lewis was called to the building to inspect the structural damage. Powers also contacted the city's fleet maintenance staff to attend to Engine 1.

The 2001 truck was in the shop for repairs twice in November. The first time was for a leak in the fuel tank, the second was to repair a faulty valve.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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