I was on vacation at my parent's house in North Carolina and my cell phone rang. The caller said is this Webber...uh....Webber Motors? Of course, I answered that it was. He proceeded to tell me that my building was on fire. My first thought was that one of my friends was punking me. My response was "are you serious?" to which he replied that he was. My heart started racing. The rest of the quick conversation confirmed that the fire department had been called and that the fire was in my neighbor's unit. I share a common wall with him. His unit is three bays compared to my one bay.
Immediately I called my co-workers at The Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and asked if one or more of them could rush over there to move my cars out of the warehouse. I am blessed to work with such great people. Five of them were there in less than five minutes. Unfortunately, the fire department would not let them into the warehouse. They had to stand and watch.
One of my co-workers was texting me video as things progressed. The cell coverage at the house in North Carolina is spotty. I was standing under the eve of the house in the rain trying to keep a signal and find out if I was about to lose my inventory and personal car collection.
After many dropped calls, redials, and several conversations updating me on the situation the fire was put out. My co-workers entered my side of the building and started sending pictures of the cars covered in soot, ash, and burned insulation.
The floor was covered in several inches of water. They grabbed the keys for all of the cars and a couple other items before the fire department made them leave and wouldn't let them back in. Apparently, it had to be secured until a fire investigator could inspect the entire building which would take over 4 hours. Since the fire started around 5pm I couldn't expect them to give up that much of their time. With another round of pictures and video sent to me they went home.
I got up early the next morning and headed straight for the office. Upon arrival, nearly all of the same group volunteered to head over to the dealership and help. They had dressed in work clothes and brought cleaning supplies. Didn't I say I work with a great group of people.
Upon opening the door to the dealership I was greeted with a strong smoke smell. Like the smell you have on your clothes after a weekend of camping around a campfire. We opened the roll up door and I began moving the cars out of the warehouse. There was a huge pile of debris in front of the neighbor's unit with caution tape all around it.
At this point I noticed that the dividing wall had been pushed in the center against two of my cars.
Several neighbors came over to look at the damage. One of them said that after everyone left the fire department showed up with a front end loader and began pushing things out of the other unit. This is when the wall was pushed into the cars. Fortunately, after moving the cars, I determined that the damage was minimal. A scratch and chip out of the paint on the side mirror on the 300ZX Turbo, and some small dents on the hatch of the 350Z.
There was no way I could leave the cars here with the smoke smell. So the group of us began shuttling them to a new storage location. It took a couple trips but we got them all moved. We then began washing each car to get the ash/soot/insulation off and see what, if any, paint damage was there. Most of the cars looked fine at this point. A couple had bad water marks and something that you could feel still on the paint. It was late in the day, and everyone was exhausted so we went home.
The next day was a solo effort. I stopped by the auto parts store and bought a clay bar kit, microfiber towels and wax. I spent the better part of the day using the clay bar on each car then waxing them. I lucked out - no paint damage that I can see. The smoke smell has mostly gone away. I was not so lucky with my personal property. I had a lot of things, including electronics, on the floor. They all are ruined. While the cars were fully insured I declined to purchase personal property insurance. Thinks could have been MUCH worse. I am grateful that there was no human injuries in the fire or to the firefighters.
Turns out the building is a total loss and will be demolished in the near future. My landlord is working with me to find a suitable place to relocate the dealership. I'm not looking forward to the dealing with bureaucracy that I will have to go through to approve the new location. For some insight to what I will have to deal with check out my first blog posted below.