PONTIAC, Ill. (WMBD) – After a large-scale fire Wednesday night, March 3, fire officials said Bernie’s Automotive Repair in Pontiac is a loss and residents say it is a hit to the community.
For 31 years, Bernie’s Automotive repair center in Pontiac has served its community. Just before 7 p.m. Wednesday night, a large fire broke out that left the business and several vehicles engulfed in flames.
“Unfortunately, due to the amount of fuel that was in there, it was definitely a loss from the beginning when it caught fire,” said Chief Jacob Campbell of the Pontiac Fire Department.
Some residents in Pontiac said they could see the blaze from as far as their home.
“I could watch it. I was outside for a while until the smoke got too thick,” said Donald Wilson a Pontiac resident
Campbell said the response to the fire required the assistance from nine neighboring fire departments.
“Normally in Pontiac, Illinois first-alarm would bring about half of that for a residential fire. Usually when we have fires of this size, we go to the second-alarm,” he said.
While attempting to calm the flames, Campbell said crews were faced with with the potential of the building collapsing and downed power lines.
“We also encountered multiple explosions which were the tires and other gases that were stored in there,” he said.
Just after midnight, first responders were able to get extinguish the fire, with only one individual going to the hospital and being released the same night.
“I am very proud of our fire department and all the mutual aid. They worked very hard to do what they could,” Campbell said.
With the loss of the building, community members said it’s sad to see a long-time local business in ruins.
“It’s just terrible because they’re pretty big around here, and it’s pretty bad.” said Dallas Hillier, a Saunemin resident.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation and the investigation will be lead by the Illinois State Fire Marshall.