9 cars catch fire at Insurance Auto Auctions in Suffolk

Posted at 10:48 AM, Jun 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-06 18:42:52-04

SUFFOLK, Va. – Nine cars in an auction lot in Suffolk caught fire Monday morning.

Suffolk firefighters got the call just before 4:30 a.m. and arrived on scene to Insurance Auto Auctions in the 1300 block of Portsmouth Boulevard minutes later.

Flames reached 15-20 feet high, according to Suffolk Fire Marshal Chris Cornwell.

“The cars are close enough together that when one starts burning like we saw in this case, it spreads from vehicle to vehicle to vehicle,” Cornwell said.

When crews arrived on the scene, they said they found a total of nine cars fully engulfed in flames with no extension to the building on the property.

Fire crews worked quickly to extinguish the fires and applied firefighting foam to contain the fuel that was leaking from the burning vehicles. The fire was under control at 5:08 a.m.

Investigators say fighting the blaze had its challenges.

Cornwell said firefighters had to cut the lock to the gate and because of how secluded the salvage yard is, there were no fire hydrants.

Crews had to bring in water on trucks and used foam to get the upper hand and prevent flames from spreading even more.

“We’ve got oil; we’ve got gas, petroleum products, tires, lots of different things burning in a salvage yard,” said Cornwell.

Investigators say the auction site’s security cameras detected the flames and alerted 911.

They say they don’t suspect anyone intentionally set the cars on fire but believe the flames could have started from one of the car’s batteries.

“The vehicle where the fire originated appeared to have been damaged initially due to a frontal impact in the crash that totaled the vehicle that laned it in the salvage yard in the first place,” Cornwell said. “There was already damage to the front end, so it could have been any number of things - damage to the wiring; damage to the connectors; damage to the battery already that caused that battery itself to malfunction. We’re still working with the property owner and the business itself to try to gather information on this vehicle as to how long it had been there and under what conditions was it brought there.”

No firefighters were hurt.

The fire is under investigation by the Suffolk Department of Fire & Rescue Fire Marshal’s Office.

Fire investigators are reviewing surveillance cameras from the business and should be done with their investigation by the end of the week.