Brondes Ford, one of the oldest car dealerships in the Toledo area, plans to open today despite the loss of its Secor Road showroom to a crippling fire yesterday that caused damage that could total $5 million to $10 million.
Firefighters responded to a commercial alarm at Brondes, 5717 Secor Rd., about 1:50 a.m. and found the building heavily involved in fire with smoke billowing from it. Toledo Fire Department Lt. Bill Hull said part of the building collapsed shortly after firefighters arrived.
Battalion Chief Bill Sulewski said officials with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in Cleveland were called in to assist the investigation because of the large loss, which included the dealership's phone and computer system.
Chief Sulewski said the cause of the fire was undetermined as of last night.
He said fire investigators believe the fire, which occurred exactly 34 years after a two-alarm blaze caused about $150,000 in damage, started in a lubing bay in the service area.
Dennis Jackson, sales manager at Brondes, said yesterday's fire destroyed the company's main building that housed its showroom, parts and service departments, and business offices.
Fire officials set initial damage estimates at $1 million, but Mr. Jackson said it could cost Brondes between $5 million to $10 million once everything is replaced and a new building constructed.
The blaze crumpled the building's metal roofing as part of the structure disintegrated under the intense heat.
“[The main building] is a total loss,” Mr. Jackson said. “We'll have to rebuild.”
He said the roughly 100 employees who work at the location will be paid, but where they will work remains undecided.
He said the dealership's owner Phil Brondes told employees that they would be “taken care of and will continue to be paid.”
“Our insurance people are flying in, and we will be finding out what our insurance covers and what will be paid,” Mr. Jackson said.
He said Brondes plans to bring in two office trailers where workers can set up new car and service department operations. He said Brondes workers will not be able to get on the property until after ATF completes its investigation.
Mr. Jackson said the main phone and computer systems, which operated computers at Secor Road and Brondes' Maumee dealership at 1511 Reynolds Rd., were heavily damaged.
“I'm talking to our computer people and telephone people so we can have phones and records at both locations,” Mr. Jackson said.
The showroom had six 2002 model cars worth a total of about $150,000. He said the parts in the service department cost another $350,000.
Several rental cars and vehicles just outside the service department that were in for repairs suffered significant heat damage. Mr. Jackson said at least one vehicle owned by a customer was parked inside a bay in the service department and was lost in the fire.
He said Brondes officials want to see the extent of damage to safes and paper records housed in file cabinets inside the building.
The outside lane of Secor south near Alexis Road to Coral Avenue, as well as the entrance of Coral at Secor, were closed to traffic.
The Brondes business on Secor Road has been in operation since 1937, first selling used cars and then Studebakers and Hudsons. On May 27, 1968, a fire caused $150,000 damage to the Secor Road dealership.