Facility Security

Lack of Hydrants Hamper Efforts to Fight Massive Illinois Fire

A five-alarm fire tore through a classic car dealership in Illinois, destroying the dealership’s main building and at least 150 vintage cars that were being stored inside. The distance firefighters had to travel before arriving at the rural scene and a lack of fire hydrants contributed to the inferno.

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Pieces of automotive history are turned to charred rubble after a fire spread through a classic car dealership in rural Illinois. The massive five-alarm fire began earlier this month on August 8 around 8:00 p.m. Approximately 100 firefighters from 13 different departments, some from as far as 25 miles away, were called to the scene at Country Classic Cars in Staunton, Illinois.

The main building of the business, a 510-foot-long, 50-foot-wide structure, was already in flames that were quickly spreading. The fire caused the roof to collapse on the 150 cars parked inside. Flames could be seen from miles away, and thick smoke closed nearby roads.

It took fire crews about 2 ½ hours to get the fire under control. The firefighters’ efforts were made even less effective by the fact that there were no fire hydrants in the rural area where the dealership was located. All the water had to be trucked in.

“We were required to truck in water,” said Staunton Fire Chief Rick Haase. “There was nothing to stop the flames from spreading quickly. Fortunately, no one was injured.”

In the midst of celebrating its 20th anniversary, Country Classic Cars is well known throughout the region for its vast collection of vintage cars, stored throughout five large buildings on the property. Owner Russell Noel started collecting cars about 20 years ago, and now it is his passion and livelihood.

Country Classic Cars lost one-quarter of the more than 600 cars on-site, dating from the 1920s to the 1980s. About 5% of the cars were owned privately under consignment. Assessing the damage, Noel estimates it is well into the millions in losses and fears that many of the lost cars in the fire will never be replaced.

Officials say the main building of the business and all 150 cars inside are a total loss. The day after the blaze, investigators along with the Illinois state fire marshal were on the scene to attempt to determine how the fire originated. The fire being so far along and extensive by the time firefighters arrived on the scene and the complete destruction of the main building will make deciphering the cause more difficult for investigators.