A monstrous fire at K’s Auto Shop last week caused a five-hour shut down of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) and had more than 200 firefighters battling frigid temperatures as they tried to control the blaze and keep it from jumping to nearby buildings. While there were no injuries, shop owner Kevin Thomas’ dog died in the blaze.
Mineola firefighters responded to the automatic alarm at 47 Willis Ave. around 11:25 p.m. on March 2. Once they arrived, they saw a truck parked outside the building was on fire.
“At first we thought we just had a truck fire, but we quickly realized that the building itself was on fire,” said Jeff Clark, chief of the Mineola Fire Department. “We tried to make entry but when we opened the door there was a heavy body of fire.”
The building was “heavily involved,” with fire coming out of the room, Clark said. As they knew that propane tanks and other explosive, harmful elements were inside the building, the fire department set up an aerial attack and collapse zone, to avoid falling debris hitting anyone.
Half an hour into fighting the fire, Clark says the intense heat caused the steel supporting the roof to twist, causing the roof and sections of the building to collapse. The fire department then called for more aid, with seven additional departments responding-Garden City, Garden City Park, Carle Place, Manhasset-Lakeville, Stewart Manor, Williston Park and East Williston.
The fire poised significant challenges for the more than 200 firefighters at the scene. Over the course of the evening, the temperature dropped 20 degrees, leaving the firefighters to deal with icing conditions. Because there was also no fire hydrant nearby, they had to extend the water lines across the Long Island Rail Road tracks, causing the shutdown of the main line and Oyster Bay lines of the LIRR from around 11:30 a.m. to 4 a.m.
“It affected tens of thousands of commuters,” said Clark. “We were under a lot of pressure to get the fire under control for a lot of reasons, but also for the opening of the rail road. We worked very quickly.”
Thanks to preemptive thinking by the fire department, they were also able to keep the flames from spreading to nearby buildings.
“We were very concerned for Western Beef, those buildings are practically touching,” Clark said. “We were prepared. We had a team up on the room and inside of Western Beef. As soon as we saw it had jumped, we had a very aggressive attack, preventing Western Beef from having a major incident also.”
The fire was under control by Friday, March 3 at 3 a.m., with all the hot spots knocked down by 3:45 a.m. It continued to reignited and rekindle throughout the day, with the last rekindle Saturday morning at 8 a.m.
“This was one of the biggest fires I’ve seen,” said Clark. “The damage was in the area of $5 million. The property is completely destroyed.”
While there were no injuries, it is believed that owner Kevin Thomas’ dog, who lived in the shop, died in the fire.
Mineola resident Suzin Rae said she’d been a customer at K’s Auto Repair since 1976. She said she was devastated to hear about the fire.
“The service I got, I couldn’t have asked for better,” Rae said. “Kevin was always very nice and always there for me. He was always so positive around his office. He always said he was living the dream.”
Marianne Warnock also had nothing but praise for the shop and its owner.
“Kevin is an amazing guy, full of energy and so honest. He had a great business there and loved his customers and was so personable with them,” Warnock said. “My heart is broken that he lost his business.”