BETHEL TWP., Pa. - Firefighters from Berks and Lebanon counties battled a two-alarm blaze that gutted an auto repair shop and left nothing but charred antique cars and cinder blocks behind.
The Reinhard family was sitting on the porch talking about how to spend the Fourth of July when the holiday turned to horror.
"All of a sudden we heard glass breaking," said Gail Reinhard, who watched the flames devour everything.
Within seconds, fire ate all the way through Tim Reinhard Repair in the 900 block of Little Mountain Road in Bethel Township, Berks County. It broke out just before 10:30 a.m., and when crews got on scene, the shop was fully involved.
"The flames were coming out of the windows, and the windows were bursting from the pressure of the heat," said Reinhard.
Officials quickly struck a second alarm to bring in additional manpower and a task force of tanker trucks with water. Crews from 10 companies worked about 20 minutes to get the fire under control, however, it continued to smolder for quite sometime beyond that.
Nothing was left inside the shop, including a 1958 and 1960 Mercedes and a 1986 Porsche.
"It's something my dad had built from scratch and to see it go so quickly, it's hard," said Tim Reinhard, who currently owns the shop.
Tim's dad, Gerhard, can remember every brick. He built the shop in 1966 to repair Mercedes and German cars. He has since passed the business down to his son.
"I could cry," said Gerhard Reinhard. "How do we tell all the customers whose cars are in there that they are junk?"
Fire officials don't know an exact cause of the fire, but Tim Reinhard said he was inside the shop minutes before with a lithium ion battery-powered flashlight. He said he had problems with it before, and Friday morning it was sitting on a towel atop a customer's car.
"It's just getting a hold of customers now and seeing where to go from here," said Tim Reinhard.
Several other cars were damaged from the heat of the fire, and all of Gerhard's handmade tools inside the shop were destroyed.
Fire officials said the fire appears to be accidental, and damage is estimated to be at least $300,000.Images: Auto repair shop fire in Bethel
Allentown, PA 18102