By LEIGH C. MERRIFIELD
News & Journal Editor

As firefighters began to arrive at the scene at Rick’s Collision on Sunday morning, it was apparent from the heavy smoke that they would be facing extreme heat.  Fortunately, only the one structure was involved in the fire.

Rick’s Collision in Shinnston was open for business on Monday morning following a fire at the facility just 24 hours before.

SVFD Fire Chief Dylan Oliveto said a passing motorist noticed smoke coming from one of the buildings on the site and placed the call for help at 7:20 a.m.

“There is always more to deal with when there is a fire at a commercial property,” Oliveto explained.  “But knowing that we were responding to a fire at a paint and body shop added to the challenge.  We immediately began thinking ahead because of extra factors like chemicals, paint and combustibles that would likely be involved plus the fact that vehicles were inside the facility.”

Oliveto noted that there was heavy smoke coming from every crevice of the building when they arrived.  Firefighters forced entry through one door and many noted that it was one of the hottest fires they had ever been inside.

“Being a metal building, the structure held the heat,” he stated.  “However, we were able to keep the building standing and intact after two and a half hours of fighting the fire.”

There were about 40 firefighters who arrived, with additional assistance being provided by fire departments from Lumberport, Worthington and Bridgeport.  Two EMS vehicles were on the scene as well for standby precautions.

Oliveto also said that being a weekend morning was helpful.  “There is really no better time than a Sunday because available manpower is typically at its peak at that time.  Commercial fires bring a lot of response, and I was pleased with everyone’s performance at this fire.  We were aggressive, and the way we worked together paid off.  Everyone worked well as a team to keep the area safe.”

The property on South Pike Street where Rick’s Collision is located consists of three buildings – one houses the office; another is a frame and detail shop; and the third is the paint/body shop.  Only the paint/body shop was involved in the fire.

Owners said that it is likely that damages will be in excess of $250,000.  There were six customer vehicles inside the paint/body shop at the time of the fire.  Four were totally lost; two suffered just smoke damage.

Rick and Darlene White have owned the business for 40 years and said they have never had anything like this happen before.  However, on Monday morning, everyone showed up for work as usual!

“We will be rebuilding; equipment can be replaced, and we are just so thankful that no one was hurt,” they said.  “Right now we are trying to make plans to set up temporarily to continue paint and body work.  It will require us to revamp our schedule, but we are still open for business right now – just working in a more confined space.  The rebuild will of course take some time.”

Pending investigation by the Fire Marshal, a firm cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but nothing suspicious was expected.

Darlene White concluded, “After going through something like this, it is hard to imagine feeling thankful, but we are so thankful!  Because of the heat contained within the building, when the doors opened, it could have been so much worse.  We sincerely thank our Fire Department and all of the others that responded, and we are grateful that no one was hurt in any way.  We have truly been overwhelmed by the numerous offers of help that we’ve had.  We feel so blessed that so many people have been so loving and kind and have taken the time to think of us, pray for us and offered to help us.”