By Richard Greene
Terry Hand watched from the road Saturday morning as the orange flames danced through his Chico Auto Parts store.
“A lot of memories and hard work,” Hand said. “I’ve raised four girls out of there.”
Fire destroyed the shop in the 200 block of Weatherford Street that had been in the Hand family since 1982.
“It’ll be 30 years in September,” Hand said. “We bought it in 1982, my folks and me.”
Nearly 40 firefighters from seven departments battled the blaze for more than five hours as of 11:30 a.m.
Pam Hartley, who has worked at the shop for the past 10 years, discovered the fire shortly after 6 on her way to the shop.
“I drove up and this [east] side was in flames,” said Hartley, who works as a state inspector at the shop.
“Lots of memories gone up in flames for all of us. Terry has a lot of good employees. He’s a good person. You can’t ask for a better boss.”
When Chico firefighters arrived flames were already raging in the bays on the south side of the building.
“It wasn’t through the roof yet,” said Chico Fire Chief Pancho Redwine. “The whole shop bay was gone by the time we got here.”
Officials were unsure what ignited the fire, but suggested it started in the shop. Hand said it may have been an electrical fire with one of the four vehicles in the bay.
“A vehicle started on fire, and it got in the roof and started running,” he said.
Firefighters had to take a defensive approach initially as flames gutted the metal building. A hole had to be cut in a wall on the south side to vent the flames.
Thick clouds of black smoke filled the sky as dancing orange flames were visible through the front window of the building. After the fire destroyed the inside, the sign at front of building collapsed with a thundering thud shortly before 8:30.
Firefighters applied gallons of water and foam to the flames from outside before they were eventually able to start getting inside the building to gain control of the blaze.
The summer heat added to the strain on the firefighters battling the flames. Firefighters rotated 10 and 10 on the fire with no one staying involved more than 15 minutes.
“Anything this big and hot, we need as much manpower as we can get,” Redwine said. “You can’t stay in there long.”
One firefighter was treated for dehydration.
Firefighters from Chico, Alvord, Bridgeport, Crafton, Paradise, Sunset and Sand Flat worked on the blaze. Assistance with getting water to the scene was provided by a pair of Chico businesses — Got To Go Solutions and Coffman Tanks Trucks.
Hand said between the loss of the building, inventory, equipment and the four vehicles of customers that damages will total near $2 million.
“It’ll be extensive,” he said.
Hand doesn’t expect to be out of business long. He said he planned to visit with the owner of a neighboring building on Weatherford about moving his shop there.
“Nobody got hurt,” Hand said. “We’ll look at it Monday, pull our boots up and go again.”