GRAND GORGE - The building housing a large tire service business in Grand Gorge was destroyed by fire late Thursday night as a passerby reported flames coming from the Becker’s Tire Service building on state Rt. 30 just south of the hamlet.
Grand Gorge firefighters got the call at around 12:20 p.m. Thursday and arrived to find the building, which was filled to capacity with winter snow tires, fully involved. They would remain on the scene well into the next morning.
Mutual aid was called to Roxbury, Stamford, Margaretville, Halcottsville, Prattsville, Ahsland, Hobart and Arkville, while Jefferson, Conesville and Lexington were called for standby.
An estimated100 firefighters battled the blaze, which was compounded by the huge fire load of tires inside the building. In anticipation of snow tire sales this fall, Beckers had recently received a shipment of winter tires, filling the storage area on the second floor, plus the two bays with as many as 5,000 tires, according to Grand Gorge Fire Chief D. J. Speenburgh.
“Our biggest obstacle was the concrete building and the fact we couldn’t get inside to fight the fire,” said Speenburgh. It wasn’t until aerial apparatus from Stamford and Margaretville arrived to allow water streams into the second floor that firefighters began to gain some control.
It is estimated firefighters used as much as 500 gallons of foam, along with thousands of gallons of water to bring the blaze under control.
By Friday morning, the main building, which housed the offices and service bays, was a large concrete shell.
Delaware County Fire Coordinators called in state fire investigators to help with determining the cause of the blaze, said Speenburgh, which remains under investigation.
A tractor trailer operator who passed by Becker’s Tire at midnight, reported seeing nothing. Twenty minutes later, the call was made to 911.
“When we arrived, the fire had broken through the windows and had a good head start,” said Speenburgh.
On Friday morning, New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) officials were on site. Speenburgh said they were concerned about the amount of foam used to fight the blaze, but the foam is not caustic.
The bigger concern, he said, is likely the amount of residue from the burned tires.
The business, which is owned by Rick Haight and his wife, Shelly, employed seven people, according to Cathy Lanaro, manager, who has worked at Becker’s for 27 years.
For four of the seven employees, it is all they have ever done, said Lanaro. Two others are relatives of the owners.
Shelly Haight said it couldn’t have happened at a worse time, with the recent shipment of winter snow tires.
The road service operation remains open and lost no tire inventory. There is one service truck remaining, the other two were lost to the blaze. Anyone needing on farm service may call (607) 588-7501 where Lanaro is answering the phone.
“People are still calling in for estimates on winter tires,” Lanaro said on Monday. “I am asking them to wait three weeks.
Haight said she wanted to thank all of the firefighters and volunteers, as well as their employees. She said she they have also been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support they have received from other businesses, tire companies and the community with offers of places to locate, use equipment and help with other things.
“Right now we are just sorting through all our options and looking to get a temporary location going,” said Haight.
Insurance investigators visit ed the scene on Monday and insturance adjusters were expected this week.
Haight said the cause has been traced to the office area, but the exact cause is undetermined.
“We are taking it one day at a time. A couple of the employees are working on road services. Cathy is answering the phone and unfortunately, a couple will have to go on unemployment until we can get things sorted out.”