Large fire burns for hours at Uftring Chevrolet in Washington - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

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Large fire burns for hours at Uftring Chevrolet in Washington

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WASHINGTON, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

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(Updated 10:30 p.m.)

A fire that broke out at Uftring Chevrolet in Washington around noon burned for hours Friday.

While authorities haven't given an exact cause, one employee who was there when the building was evacuated told our crew on the scene that they believed it started in the service department. The good news is that the employees and customers who were there at the time all got out safely. But the fire itself burned on for hours, with fire crews from more than 15 different departments trucking in water to try to tackle the blaze.

Washington Mayor Gary Manier told us the owners said they had tires stored upstairs, and it's likely those tires contributed to the the thick smoke we saw pouring from the roof. 

Meanwhile Uftring Chevrolet released a statement on their Facebook page this afternoon that said:

"All employees and customers who were inside and around the store are safe and out of harm's way. We would like to express our deepest thanks to the first responders who are risking their lives to fight this fire. From all of us - thank you to everyone in the community for your prayers and support. We appreciate it."


Fire fighters told us earlier they had to actually switch tactics, going from fighting this fire in the air, to tacking it from the sides. But by the evening hours it's apparent the blaze took its toll, leaving melted walls of the building.

We're still waiting to learn the exact extent of the damage and how it will affect this close knit community. Mayor Manier told us Ufring Chevy employs about 80 people, estimated that makes them one of the top employers in the city. And when it comes to sales, he thinks they're in the top three within Washington. 

But, Manier says what's also upsetting is that this is happening to a company that gives back so much to that community.

""Gary Uftring and the entire Uftring family, and Mark Weston and everyone that's involved with the leadership team has done so much for this community. But we thank first and foremost that the employees got out safe and that the 80 employees they have here in Washington will be taken care of by this team," he shared.

He also said while that building was not damaged in the  2013 ef-4 tornado that hit Washington, the dealership did have several hundred cars damaged, but they never made that public or made a big deal of it.

As for the 80 employees whose jobs are now hanging in the balance, the Mayor said they were notified by the owner, Gary Uftring, that they will still be getting paid.

Again, 25 News is waiting for more information on this story. Stay tuned this weekend on air and online.

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UPDATE 5 PM: Several fire departments are currently fighting a large fire at the Uftring Chevrolet car dealership in Washington.

Business 24 is shut down to one lane westbound near the dealership. The fire reportedly began in the tool room. Everyone was able to escape the building safely. 

The American Red Cross said their volunteers are on scene providing coffee, water, hot chocolate and sandwiches for about 100 firefighters. 

"We would like to express our deepest thanks to the first responders who are risking their lives to fight this fire, said Uftring Chevrolet in a Facebook post. "From all of us - thank you to everyone in the community for your prayers and support. We appreciate it."

Washington Mayor Gary Manier told 25 News about 80 people work at the dealership. Manier said the fire is a big loss for the community because the owners are so heavily involved in civic affairs. 

Uftring said it will contact customers with vehicles in the shop as soon as possible. 

The fire started around the noon hour Friday. 

There is no word yet on a cause. 

This post will be updated. 

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