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Damage total for burned Longview business could reach $3.5M

By Melissa Greene
Sept. 29, 2013 at 11 p.m.

A fire that burned for almost five hours Saturday at a Longview auto parts store caused an estimated $3.5 million in damage and threatened a nearby creek, officials said Sunday.

Motor oil, transmission fluid and other chemicals that are part of the O'Reilly Auto Parts regular inventory threatened to contaminate a creek and drainage system behind the business on West Marshall Avenue, said Longview Fire Marshal Johnny Zackary, but were prevented from doing so.

"Early on in the incident they (O'Reilly's management team) took full responsibility and hired outside companies to handle the hazardous materials portion of it," Zackary said. "It's important at a store like this because there's just a multitude of chemicals in an auto parts store."

A hazardous materials team with Allied International Emergency responded to the scene after being contacted by O'Reilly's officials. No contaminants reached the creek, Zackary said, adding that a city crew also set up dikes and dams at runoff points as a precaution.

A firefighter who received steam burns during the incident was doing well Sunday after being treated and released from Longview Regional Medical Center late Saturday, Zackary said.

Ten off-duty firefighters were called to assist 30 already on scene, Zackary said, as four departments from other cities stepped in to answer calls while most of the city's resources were deployed at the fire.

The fire was reported about 12:45 p.m. Saturday by an O'Reilly's employee who discovered flames in a back room of the 10,000-square-foot building. That employee alerted others in the building and all safely exited.

Because the store serves as a hub for other stores in the region, it contained more inventory and employs more personnel than a typical store, Regional Manager David Plaster said Sunday.

"It's a pretty tough pill to swallow," he said. "This store is regional hub and affects a lot of other stores."

About 40 employees will be temporarily relocated to two other locations in Longview or other stores served by the hub, including those in Lufkin, Jacksonville, Gilmer and Gladewater.

"We're just really grateful we didn't lose any team members. We can replace all this," Plaster said, motioning to the burned structure. "We can't replace a loss of life."

O'Reilly District Manager Jimmy Carter said the building was in flames when he arrived Saturday, shortly after store Manager John Nutter notifed him of the fire.

On Sunday, the 30-year old building showed signs of structural instability, such as a heavily sagging roof. Company officials said it remained to be seen how much of the building will be torn down, but they called it a total loss.

"We hope (the business impact) won't be much at all. We've already got computer equipment coming to go up in other stores to run the operation out of those," Carter said.



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