Route 66 News

A clue surfaces in the Country Classic Cars fire

The cause of a fire that destroyed dozens of vintage cars and a large building last month at Country Classic Cars near Staunton, Illinois, remains undetermined, but a new report reveals one possibility.

An insurance-industry publication called Claims Journal this week reported interesting facts about the blaze:

— The fire destroyed a total of 143 cars in a 530-foot-long warehouse, along with the office and gift shop. Another six cars near the warehouse sustained smoke damage.

— Country Classic Cars owner Russ Noel said he owned 95 percent of the destroyed cars; the rest were on consignment.

— Authorities traced the fire to one of five cars in the middle of the warehouse. Noel said when a car arrives to be sold at the business, the first step is to disconnect the battery. He acknowledged that may have been overlooked. That leaves open the possibility of an electrical malfunction starting the fire.

— The gutted cars and debris were removed within weeks. Noel plans to begin rebuilding the structure this month.

— Noel didn’t say reveal the total loss. His insurer declined to comment to the magazine. The loss was conservatively estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

A total of 11 fire departments battled the blaze, which apparently began shortly before sundown after Country Classic Cars had closed for the day.

News reports stated Country Classic Cars had more than 600 vehicles before the fire. A count of its inventory Thursday totaled just under 500.


5 thoughts on “A clue surfaces in the Country Classic Cars fire

  1. Eric Hayman

    So, the possibility that ” one of five cars in the middle of the warehouse” burst into flames? Because disconnecting the battery “may have been overlooked”. And the fire “apparently began shortly before sundown after Country Classic Cars had closed for the day”. How long between the last employee leaving the premises and the fire being noticed? And by whom?

    Such coincidences do happen: the Titanic and an iceberg being at exactly the same place in the vast Atlantic Ocean at the same time.

    As for the destroyed (irreplaceable?) cars being worth “hundreds of thousands of dollars”, how much would a sprinkler system have cost? Perhaps along with reduced fire insurance premiums. A very sad day indeed. I do hope the replacement building will have automatic fire suppression.

    I mentioned before a fire in the UK at a heritage railway, with irreplaceable rolling stock destroyed – in a new workshop just five months old, and not fitted with sprinklers. And the building had had National Lottery funding for its construction. So much for taking a chance.

    1. Ron Warnick Post author

      I don’t honestly know whether a sprinkler system would have worked in that situation. Country Classic Cars sits in a rural area outside of any sort of municipal fire district with hydrants. CCC obviously uses well water for drinking, bathrooms, etc. But fire sprinkler systems must be hooked to high-capacity water systems. Hooking up a fire sprinkler system to several water wells can be done, but it’s difficult and sometimes not possible if the wells’ capacities for a site that large aren’t high enough.

      In short, such a system in the rural area would be very expensive and might not even work.

      1. Eric Hayman

        As I believe I suggested before, Ron, have an emergency water storage tank at a height to provide the supply for the sprinklers. I did mention the Australian who dug a large pond and fitted a pump to spray the water onto his house in the case of a bush fire. That saved his home.

  2. Larry Lord

    In movies, sprinkler systems operate in a misleading way, leading many people to believe a fallacy that all the sprinklers in a system are tied together and when one is triggered by heat, they all activate.

    If this was the case, putting out a fire would simply be trading fire damage for water damage, and it’s not how fire sprinklers work.

    Fortunately, sprinkler heads function individually. Most of the time, fires can be completely extinguished after just one or two sprinklers activate. This allows water damage to be confined to the small area where the fire started. Plus, since fire sprinklers douse fires with about six times less water than a fire hose, their quick action is actually less damaging to your property than a visit from the fire department.

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