ALBERTVILLE, Ala. — A mechanic shop made up of friends and family is devastated after losing their place of work along Highway 431 and Kilpatrick Road, though they’re also thankful to walk away with their lives.
“(Employees) were working inside and we saw when it sparked,” manager Elmar Barrios told News 19. “A truck then fell over. We couldn’t do anything because it happened so fast, so we just had to get out quickly to save ourselves because when gasoline ignites, it’s dangerous.”
The fiery chaos erupted at the end of a normal day of work at Electromecanico Gomez repair shop Tuesday evening. It ended with a roof caved in and three vehicles torched beyond repair, according to Albertville Deputy Fire Chief Brent Ennis.
“The first crews also encountered power lines down, so it sort of hindered their advance,” Ennis said. “Once we got the power cut off they advanced in pretty quick but the roof had already collapsed in on it. Once they got it out, it took them about an hour and a half to get the fire put out, and once they had it extinguished the building was so unsafe that we couldn’t go in.”
Firefighting efforts resulted in a lane closing along Highway 431 during rush hour.
After almost 11 years open, Barrios and his work family, mostly all immigrants, feel a sense of loss. On Wednesday afternoon, several employees surveying exterior damage helped a customer who drove up with car issues, all out of courtesy.
“It was very important to us,” Barrios said. “It affects us a lot. So now we’re not working and we don’t know when it’s going to change. All the tools we had were inside. We couldn’t save them and the firefighters told us we couldn’t go inside.”
To make matters worse, it looks like the mechanics have nowhere to turn in the immediate future to provide for their families.
“I know the building owner has insurance. As far as the mechanic his self, the occupant – he advised he didn’t, and I’m pretty sure he’s pretty much lost everything as far as that. He’s not going to have any way to recoup that,” Ennis said.
“Unfortunately this happened to us and I hope people who are watching this empathize with us,” Barrios said. “A lot of people around us know our work. It’s not easy to start from scratch.”