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Fire damages EZ Auto Repair in downtown Farmington

Eric Zeimet watches firefighters extinguish a blaze at his EZ Auto Repair June 21. Kara Hildreth / contributor1 / 6
Fire caused extensive damage at EZ Auto Repair in Farmington. Gary Ball / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 6
Firefighters battled a June 21 fire at EZ Auto Repair in downtown Farmington. Kara Hildreth / contributor3 / 6
Crews from multiple fire departments assisted at the EZ Auto Repair fire June 22 in Farmington. Kara Hildreth / contributor4 / 6
Fire caused extensive damage at EZ Auto Repair in Farmington. Kara Hildreth / contributor5 / 6
Fire caused extensive damage at EZ Auto Repair in Farmington. Gary Ball / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 6

A fire that caused extensive damage to EZ Auto Repair in downtown Farmington on June 21 could have been worse.

“It’s a fuel fire and the gas tank started on fire,” said Eric Zeimet, owner and head mechanic at EZ Auto Repair. “I grabbed the fire extinguisher and tried to put it out, but then there was a cloud of smoke and my cousin yelled out me to get out.”

“It was scary — I was trying to fight it as long as I could,” Zeimet added.

Fire crews were called shortly after 11 a.m. Multiple agencies battled the fire for more than an hour.

During the fire, Zeimet, 31, stood with his girlfriend Amber Smith outside his shop and watched his business burn.

Working on cars since he was 13, Zeimet said the fuel fire broke out when he was working on a car that was leaking gas.

“I was replacing a leaky fuel tank and I had a (water) hose within two feet and a fire extinguisher within reach,” he said. “I could not get it (the fire) without it spreading, and the gas was leaking when the car came into the shop and that was why I was fixing it.”

Zeimet said two other employees were on site inside the shop, but nobody was injured. The fire broke out near the garage door inside the east shop space.

“I grabbed the water hose and started spraying,” he said, before calling the fire department.

Zeimet was grateful for the firefighters’ effort.

“I want to thank them for the quick response and for keeping it contained, so that it did not damage the vehicles in the parking lots and the surrounding structure,” he said. “I cannot say how grateful I am because the fire spread so quickly and it is hard to stop.”

Because there are so many flammable chemicals inside a shop, Zeimet said he feels fortunate no one was injured.

“Some things are salvageable because we got them out in time,” he said, but he believes the building will be a total loss because the roof collapsed.

Farmington Police Chief Jim Larsen said the fire is still under investigation. Larsen reported his volunteer fire department arrived on scene within three minutes after the 11:11 a.m. call. Mutual aid response came from seven other departments, including Rosemount, Northfield, Lakeville, Eagan, Apple Valley, Hastings and Prior Lake.

The fire was contained within the business structure and did not ignite rubber tires stacked on the north side of the building exterior, nor did it come into contact with a nearby home and camper.

“We had several small explosions because of the fuel, oil, solvents and other lubricants because auto repair shops are filled with hazards,” Larsen said.

Larsen said auto shop fires can become dangerous quickly.

“We had a significant amount of fire upon arrival, and it can be very challenging to get ahead of the fire which we were able to do, but it takes time and a lot of water,” he said.

Crews used two ladder trucks to help extinguish the blaze.

“We all worked very well together and we are thankful because it was a daytime call, and the problem is that all the departments are essentially volunteers,” Larsen said.

Zeimet admitted he is still in shock after his new business burned. Zeimet said he has had a few offers to use warehouse space and store some auto parts equipment in town.

“I definitely have a lot of support from this community and that is awesome,” said Zeimet, a Farmington native, but he said he is unsure what to do next “because it is not something you deal with every day.”

EZ Auto Repair plans to post a sign outside stating how the shop can still help customers with auto repair needs.

“I got my tool box out of the shop and so most of my tools are OK, so I am able to do work and repair cars at my house,” Zeimet said, “but not on the scale as before”

Trying to feel optimistic, Zeimet said he understands in life everything happens for a reason.

“I know I enjoy working and I enjoy working on cars and making people happy because I like to take care of them,” he said.